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Stop the Axe: Kano Zoological and Botanical Garden next on line of destruction

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Prof. Yusuf M. Adamu PhD, MNAL

 

Kano city, now metropolis is an important chapter in the history of world urbanization and if we describe Kano as the queen of Hausaland and the princess of western Sudan, we wouldn’t be mistaken. History makes a place and it is not just the passage of time that makes history but the different layers of cultural attributes that creates the landscape which people are associated with. What makes Kano tick like all great cities, is its ability to absorb its residents into its citizenship thereby getting their loyalty and trust.

History of Kano Zoological Garden

In July 1971, the military governor of Kano State,  Audu Bako laid the foundation stone for the Kano Zoo and by November 1972, it was completed. The late visionary Governor  in his opening speech on November 14 said to the gathering “I am surprised to hear from a lot of people, including those who call themselves elites criticizing my idea of establishing a zoo or game reserve and not only that but also making it an item of mockery.  I am openly condemning such people as people without foresight and wisdom.  I am glad to say that there are not many of them in Nigeria for otherwise, general progress would have been retarded.” In concluding his speech, he said “In the name of God, I declare the Kano Zoological Garden open for the general public of Nigeria and anybody from outside the country, and I pray that it will serve mankind forever.  To the people of Kano State, I hand to you this zoo as an object of pride. Please hold it as an egg. May God help us?”

When Police Commissioner Audu Bako the Governor of Kano State commissioned the zoological garden he informed the gathering that the Zoo was the only one of its kind in West Africa and it was the intention of his government ‘to develop this zoo into one of the best in Africa’ The late Audu Bako made the statement above not knowing what we will be discussing 48 years after. This is an historical preamble to contextualize the issue at hand. I am talking about the perhaps largest protected ecosystem in one of the largest indigenous cities of Africa: the Audu Bako Zoological and Botanical garden located in Kano, Nigeria. The satellite image shows the current status of the area. Note the contrast between the green area and the settled area. The proposed relocation will make the green zone bare too.

Like other important landmarks of this great city, the Kano Zoo is next on the destruction list by Kano State Government. In the last 21 years, we have witnessed the systematic erasure of Kano’s historical and cultural signatures that gave the city its identity. Its planning system have been debased, the reserved low-density areas are downgraded to high density areas, the lands of public institutions like the Kano State Polytechnic  Daula Hotel and Triumph Publishing Company, have been sold, all the open spaces and green spaces have been converted to largely commercial land uses. All the parks and gardens in the metropolis have been sold. . So much mismanagement of land resources is taking place in Kano all in the name of development. One question we wish the State Government will answer is who the buyers of the sold public lands are. It will be great to have a list.

Kano is a dual city where two cities (Indigenous and township) living side by side. With an estimated population of 4-5 million, the city is in utmost need of more green areas.The zoo is perhaps the largest existing green area in the metropolis with a 53 hactre land devoted to plants and animals. It is amazing that other large city of the word such as New York which is the world’s commercial centre with a population roughly twice as that of Kano metropolis sees the need to maintain a green area despite the need for business premises and the billions they will generate as tax. The Central park which is the largest and most important public park in Manhattan occupies a whooping 340 hectares of land (6.4 times the size of Kano Zoo) covering about 4km. It was established in 1857 and opened in 1876, it is still there standing and serving mankind. The green spaces in London occupy over 142 hectares. Take some parks for example Central park is 3.41km2, English garden is 3.75km2, Regent’s park occupies 166 hectares, in fact London is 40% public green space including 3000 parks. These two cities are commercial centres, yet they understand the importance of vegetation to their survival.

satelite image of Kano Zoo

Kano state Government plans to relocate the Garden

Three weeks ago, the Kano State Commissioner for Culture and Tourism Ibrahim Ahmed announced that the Governor of Kano State has ordered the relocation of Kano Zoological gardens from its current location to Tiga town, Bebeji Local Government because, according to the Governor the present location is inconvenient due to the high population density of the area  This, according to him disturbs the animals. On a soft note, Malam Musa Tanko of Geography Department BUK has asked ‘Who did the animals at Kano Zoo told they’re not comfortable there? What about the Trees? Did they also complain?’ He further explained that ‘There is no place in the whole of Kano city that has high density of vegetation as the Kano Zoological garden. One of the numerous beauties the nature has blessed us with is vegetal cover, comprising of trees, shrubs and grasses which are very much important and necessary for life. Vegetation, especially trees are important to man and his environment in a variety of ways’.

Perhaps that is why the news was received with bad feelings. Some important points worthy of noting  include the following:

The proposed area is far away from the metropolis and this will reduce the level of patronage especially by primary schools pupils.

With the increasing insecurity, it might be difficult for pupils to visit it.

The government did not give concrete reason other than the street-like reason that zoo animals do not like human noise.

No timetable was given.

Most importantly the public were not told what will happen to place when the animals are transferred.

Noting the antecedents of the Government of selling public parks and gardens, prayer grounds, parking spaces, historical sites and other open and green spaces, every environmentally aware person in Kano will be alarmed. Not only the citizens of Kano, even professional bodies like the  Nigerian Association of Zoological Gardens and Wildlife Park were quick to write to the governor alerting him of the dangers of the proposed relocation. Many individuals have written essays trying to persuade the state Government from the project, people have spoken in the radio and other outlets all in an attempt to draw the attention of the State Government to let the Zoo be. Forestry Association also pleaded with the Government. As at now, we have not heard anything from government other than its hawks who attack responsible citizens who spoke against the proposed relocation.

The Destruction of Zoo Garden is one of the greatest planticide of the century

At this point it is good to ask the State Government what it intends to do with the Kano Zoo after relocating it. The most likely thing that will happen is that they will clear the place and create a commercial layout. In doing that, the government will claim that it is doing so to make Kano more commercially viable by building modern malls and creating jobs. As expected, I had the opportunity to hear a government officer saying that the zoo will be converted to a residential-cum commercial area and that not all the trees will be cut off. That the company that will take over the zoo will build the new one at Tiga and will decide what it will do with the old zoo. Anyway, whatever it is, it is destruction. The world will witness one of the greatest planticide (ecocide) of the century. The implications of this to Nigeria will be enormous. Many environmental groups around the world will mark Kano State red and we will lose good will that will last long and probably face sanctions.

It is sad that whenever you talk about ecology and environment or even cultural heritage, the government and its official and unofficial spoke persons will say they are bringing development to Kano thinking that building flyovers or structures is what development is all about as argued by Dr. Mahmud Abba of Geography Department, Bayero University Kano ‘Part of the genesis of this problem is our narrow perception of the concept of physical development. The authorities believe that to achieve physical development every available open space must be converted to building. Do they forget that every city in the world is made up of three major physical components namely; structures, networks and open spaces? Are they turning a blind eye on the numerous social and ecological services being provided by the zoo?’ In addition, the fallacy that building shops is development: Kano used to be the second major centre of industries and manufacturing in Nigeria, not any more. Without manufacturing Kano has become a dumping ground for manufactured goods from elsewhere. Building shops and malls will not develop the economy rather gradually weakens it. The emergence of malls, so-called plazas and super markets is in reality killing the local businessmen. Kwari market will in some years come become history. All the thousands of people employed there will lose their jobs. The malls owned by multi-nationals, politicians and big businessmen will takeover. As it has always been to the best of my knowledge, the State Government has no business with Kano business men except to collect taxes. So there will be no plan for the thousands that will lose their jobs.

The implications of relocation

The relocation of the Kano Zoo and Botanical Gardens is uncalled for as many people have argued because if we measure the costs and the benefits we will rather let it be. There are serious implications for the relocation. The implications include among others:

Reduced access: moving the zoo to about 75 kilometres away from Kano to Tiga, Bebeji Local Government, many prospective visitors will miss out. Majority of the visitors are school children and taking pupils to a 75 kilometres journey will not only be expensive to parents but also put the lives of our children in danger. This will deny millions of people the opportunity created by Audu Bako to see, learn and enjoy nature. No matter how much money the government will generate from the sale of the land, it can’t be compared to the damage it will cause and the lives of children that will be exposed to risk. The school children are the future of Kano not the new shops that will be constructed.

Loss of Biodiversity: hundred thousands of plants and animals species living in the area will be lost forever. Come to think of the thousands of trees, shrubs, grasses and insects that will be displaced just because someone wants to get money. Kano Zoo according to Dr. Mahmud Abba said is ‘a biodiversity hot spot, a repository of endangered plants and animals; the last biological sanctuary in the desert of humans and buildings.

Stress relief destruction: Many people used the park to release themselves from the daily stress they are experiencing as Dr Mahmud captures ‘The garden provides an avenue for relaxation to thousands of residents of the city. It is also a centre of social interaction amongst the multi-ethnic, multi-cultural society thereby promoting cultural integration and social inclusion in the city’

Exposing people to new diseases: the destruction of the zoo may expose us to new zoonotic diseases that are thriving in the zoo. One way humans are exposed to new disease causing microbes is through the destruction natural habitats Diseases such as COVID-19 might have originated from the destruction of natural habitats.

Loss of clean air: the thousands of trees in the zoo cleans the air, consume all the industrial air emissions from Sharada Industrial Estate and gives a healthy atmosphere in that high density area thus reducing the risk of respiratory tract infections among the residents around the zoo area. Once the trees are gone, we will see rise in respiratory tract infections and other pollution-induced conditions. This will not only make the people sick but also add the cost of health care on the people and the government.

Flood control: the area also provides storm-water ecological service at the interface of the surrounding residential area for many years. Converting the area to other land uses will trigger incessant flood events which may lead to loss of lives and property in the surrounding area.

Exposing Kano to the dangers of Climate Change: A Biogeographer from Bayero University Kano, Dr. Muhammad Nuraddeen Danjuma has captured this implication aptly when he said ‘The Zoological Garden has been a major carbon sink in the Kano Metropolis. Interestingly, this characteristic green space constitutes about 24 genera and 14 families of various plants which primarily sink the terrestrial carbon generated by human activity free of charge. In absolute carbon terms, the protection of green space and specifically the avoidance of deforestation deliver the highest carbon saving tasks. Therefore rather than spending huge billions on carbon sequestration and addressing climate change, it is imperative to keep the protected area intact. In the era of ‘donor fatigue, dwindling revenues and nature fighting back, I am sure the Governor will think twice and save Kano from everlasting implications and risks associated with defamation of this iconic landscape. According to the 2018 World Air Quality Report, air quality in Kano contains an average mean PM 2.5 concentration of 53.4μg/m3 which is more than 5 times above the maximum limits recommended by the World Health Organization. I am sure should there be the likes of the Garden in the metropolis to play vital role is air purification; the widespread apparent rates of respiratory tract diseases might be decimated.’ This is a long term effect that will cost the people long after the incumbent government has gone.

Displacement of local traders: As earlier noted, the new shops that will be built there will displace other local shops that have thrived for years. This means, the new structures will be detrimental to the people living in the area.

Options

Now, when you advise a government not to do one thing, it is only fair to give it options. For this reason, we wish to provide options to the State Government if indeed; it is after developing Kano State.

Let the Kano Zoo remain where it is, upgrade it to international standard since there is already plans for that.

If you must move the zoo, please let the place remain Kano Central Park, make another history by giving Kano what it deserves.

Leave the zoo in Kano emirate and let other emirates have its world class zoos, the proposed zoo at Tiga can serve Rano Emirate. We can have one each in Kano, Bichi and Gaya emirates.

Our Prayer

I am calling on the head of the government in Kano to please let the zoo remain. I will refer to the prayers made by Dr. Danjuma who in his article wrote ‘Kano State is lucky to have such a religious man as their Governor. Sir, for being outstanding in success stories of Abuja City and most importantly an embodiment of Islam, this destruction to the ecosystem must not take place under your watch. Such misapplication of force to isolate and devastate the garden will only lead to large-scale environmental perturbations and crises’ This is on behalf of the 15 million inhabitants of Kano metropolis and the citizens of Kano yet unborn..

Conclusion

This write up is one of the many that have been published and one of the many concerns expressed privately and in public. Many feel that we are just wasting our precious time as the government will not listen. We have written a strong petition to the Kano State Government when they allocated the land near the city wall along BUK road, we have over 100 signatures (over 10 Professors) from the Universities in Kano but the government ignored us and continued. But this will not discourage us from admonishing the government. What we want to tell every citizen of Kano is that we as scholars have done our part. History will not be unfair to us and lump us with the onlookers.  Allah will not hold us accountable for being silent. As for those who because of the meagre amount they will receive and those who are intoxicated with power, their legacy will haunt them and their lines for eternity and Allah will judge them. Finally, I want to draw the attention of all those in the helm of Kano affairs that in the end they will account to Allah for their actions.

Prof. Adamu PhD, teaches at Department of Geography, Bayero University, Kano.

 

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Unusual signs may emerge on Laylatul Qadr – Alakarmawi

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Sheikh Muhammad Nazifi Alkarmawi

Nasiru Yusuf

A renowned Islamic scholar in Kano Sheikh Muhammad Nazifi Alkarmawi said it is sometimes possible to witness unusual signs on Laylatul Qadr.

Kano Focus reports that Sheikh Alkarmawi revealed this while delivering his Friday sermon.

He said Laylatul Qadr is one of the most sacred nights in Islam found in the last ten days of Ramadan.

According to him it is sometimes possible to witness unusual signs on the night.

Some of the signs highlighted by the Imam is the night is serene, quiet and shining where the temperature is neither hot nor cold and the moon shines clearly.

Sheikh Alkarmawi said Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him used to double effort in the last ten days of Ramadan aimed at witnessing the night.

He described as a weak a narration wich declared twenty seventh night of Ramadan as Laylatul Qadr, and urged adherents to seek the night in the last ten days of the holy month.

On the recommended acts in the night, Sheikh Muhammad Nazifi Alkarmawi cited a hadith narrated by Nana Aisha which prophet taught Muslims to recite ‘Allahumma innaka afuwun, tuhibbul afwa, fa’afu anna.

He also admonished faithful on supplication, forgiveness, upholding good deeds and assisting the needy.

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Opinion

Professor Abdalla Uba Adamu at 65

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Professor Abdalla Adamu

By Ibrahim Sheme

On this day, April 25, the immediate past Vice-Chancellor of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), Professor Abdalla Uba Adamu, clocked 65 years.

He was the VC of NOUN from 2016 to February 11, 2021. When his tenure ended, he returned to his former duty post at Bayero University, Kano, but then took sabbatical work as Visitor at Kaduna State University (KASU), Kaduna, on March 1, this year.

Born in Kano City on April 25, 1956, Adamu is unarguably one of the leading academic lights in Nigeria. He obtained a professorship each in Science Education and in Media and Cultural Communication, both from Bayero University, in 1997 and 2012 respectively. Indeed, he is one of very few academics in the country to have attained the feat of a double professorship.

Adamu is an international scholar, having taught media and science education courses in many Nigerian universities and around the world, including serving as a European Union Visiting Professor at University of Warsaw, Poland, in 2012, visiting professor, Rutgers University, New Jersey, and visiting professor, University of Florida in 2010. He was also Fulbright African Senior Research Scholar in 1991.

One other remarkable achievement he recorded was the development of ‘hooked’ Hausa language character font sets (ɓ Ɓ ɗ Ɗ ƙ Ƙ), which were not present at the advent of the Internet. The emergence of these fonts, which he created as part of his various extracurricular activities, has helped many authors, publishers, scholars, students and ordinary users in conveying the Hausa language in a way that it should be written.

Two years ago, on a day like this, I penned a birthday tribute to Professor Adamu to help celebrate his 63rd anniversary. In that write-up I did not dwell on his unfolding accomplishments at NOUN in the area of infrastructural development of the university because others had done so already. Instead, I emphasised on the then VC’s human relation, which I have always found unique. And I wrote: “On that score Prof. Abdalla has remained the same person I have known for about two decades – easy-going, humorous and understanding towards all. I think this essence is a great contributory factor to the achievements he is making as a leader and chief executive.

“His approachability is rare. I know chief executives who are ‘feared’ – and consequently loathed – by those working under them because of their stiffness and unbendability. Some, you strictly need an appointment to see them, and their secretaries become lords because they emulate the ‘man inside’.  Not Baba Prof (as we used to call him). He runs an open door policy, with a  secretary (Esther) just as approachable and nice as he is.

“Once you get into his office, you immediately feel at home. He has a joke for everyone. You will never find him mirthless or sad as if the whole world rests on his shoulders. If it is lunch-time, he offers you his food.

“That sense of humanity, for me, are as important as the infrastructure he is putting on ground at NOUN. That sensibility, plus the infrastructure and the policy transformation, will no doubt count as his best legacies when his tenure ends in February, 2021.”

I daresay many at NOUN would remember him for such virtue. Happily, his successor as VC, Professor Olufemi A. Peters, is another approachable chief executive who doesn’t put on airs. Even though the two men do not necessarily share the same character traits, one can say there are several points of convergence that one can easily point at – but that is a story for another day.

Meanwhile, I’d like to use this opportunity to wish Professor Abdalla Uba Adamu happy birthday and many happy returns.

Sheme is the Director, media and publicity at National Open University of Nigeria, Abuja

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Opinion

Remembering Ja’afar Mahmud Adam

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Na-Allah Mohammed Zagga

Sheikh Ja’afar foresaw the imminent monster called Boko Haram, but was brutally silenced by the assassins bullets!

Today marks the 14th Anniversary of the assassination  Sheikh Ja’afar Mahmud Adam, who was fatally shot by yet to be identified gunmen on April 13, 2007. His death was like a defoliation of the tallest tree in the forest of knowledge. He was one of the greatest preachers that ever lived; he was a scholar par excellence. In fact, he defies all the superlatives that you can ever find in  the dictionary.

Sheikh Ja’afar Mahmud Adam was not only famous for his erudition, but also for his amazing ability to foresee an imminent danger(what today becomes known as Boko Haram). He posed the most potent intellectual challenge to the outlandish and poisonous extremist ideas of Muhammad Yusuf, the notorious Boko Haram founder. He advised Yusuf, his former student, to renounce those dangerous ideas and apologize to his blind followers for misleading them.

Caught between ego and doing the right thing, Muhammad Yusuf rejected the advice because he didn’t want to lose face by admitting to his brainwashed followers that he was wrong. The rest is history. We are today paying heavily for his stubborn resistance to reason. His poisonous ideas have so deeply settled in the hearts and minds of his credulous Boko Haram  followers that they thought God is on their side and that  any Muslim  who opposes their violent extremism is automatically an infidel or an enemy.

Sheikh Ja’afar Mahmud Adam was thus vindicated; the grave danger he foresaw is now consuming us, destroying lives, schools and disrupting our social and economic life. Since 2009, more than 15,000 lives were destroyed by the Boko Haram terrorism. Because extremism paralyses a man’s capacity to think and reason, the terrorists are not even perturbed by the consequences of their atrocities, let alone give a moment’s thought to compassion and humanity.

I won’t challenge anyone who thinks Boko Haram had a hand in Adam’s death because putting two and two together, it is impossible not to reach that conclusion. Because of their extreme brutality, taking out a scholar who represented the greatest intellectual challenge to their poisonous ideas is not beyond them.

May the soul Adam continue to rest in peace! May Allah  forgive his shortcomings and eternally  reward his great deeds! Amin!

NOTE: I originally wrote this tribute to Sheikh Jafar Adam on April 13, 2018. As we mark the 14th Anniversary of his dastardly assassination today, I find it worthy to reproduce the tribute. He was an extraordinary scholar that deserves such honour.

Na-Allah Mohammed Zagga is a media consultant at Atiku media organization

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