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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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Opinion

Childhood killer diseases: NGO gets $29m grants to reach 1m caregivers

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An International Non-Governmental Organization, New Incentive, said it has received a grant of $29 million under it project – All Babies Are Equal targeted to reach over one million caregivers and immunize their infants against childhood killer diseases in four Northwest States .

Kano Focus reports that the four Northern states are Katsina, Jigawa, Zamfara and Sokoto.

These childhood killer diseases include, tuberculosis, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B, Haemophilus influenzae type B, pneumococcal disease and measles.

The Stakeholder Relations Director, of the NGO Nura Muhammad disclosed this at a stakeholders meeting with the benefiting states held in Kano.

Muhammad said the grant would be disbursed as conditional cash transfer to support the caregivers to ensure they avail their infants for the Immunization.

He said, “New Incentive – All Babies Are Equal, NI-ABAE has received commitments of over $29 million of funding over the next 3 years to reach over 1 million caregivers and their infants in Jigawa, Katsina, Zamfara, and Sokoto States.

This covers expansion to 35 LGAs with continued operations through Dec 2023.

“The organization aims to reduce child mortality through cost-effective and evidence-based health interventions.

In Nigeria, the organization operates as the All Babies Are Equal Initiative and implements the conditional cash transfers (CCT) for routine immunization (CCTs for RI) program.

“The flagship CCTs for RI program operated by ABAE disburses cash incentives to caregivers conditional on infants receiving four vaccines: BCG (against tuberculosis), PENTA (against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenzae type b), PCV (against pneumococcal disease), and MCV (against measles).

These vaccinations are part of the routine schedule for infant immunizations in Nigeria and are provided at no cost to the caregiver through government-supported clinics.

Upon confirmation of their infant receiving a vaccine, the caregiver receives ₦500 for the first four routine immunization visits and ₦2,000 for the fifth visit.

“The cash transfers compensate for transport, lost trading income, and waiting time while creating behavioural change through awareness of routine immunizations.

“The CCTs for RI Program has been implemented in the states of Katsina, Zamfara, 2017 while Jigawa in 2018.

To date, the program has enrolled over 390,000 infants whose caregivers have received over 1 billion naira in conditional cash transfers.

An independent impact assessment of NI-ABAE’s CCTs for RI program (2017 – 2020) found that the program increases the likelihood that children would be fully immunized by 27 percentage points, and increases rates of individual vaccinations by 14 to 21 percentage points.

Beyond vaccination, the assessment found that the program contributed to improved knowledge about vaccination among caregivers in the catchment areas served by the program.

“Immunization is one of the most effective public health interventions, saving 2 to 3 million lives yearly (WHO) and there is evidence that suggests a 27 percentage points increase in the likelihood that children would be fully immunized by a conditional cash transfers for routine immunization program (NI-ABAE RCT Impact Assessment 2017-2020),” the Stakeholder Relations Director, Nura Muhammad however said.

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Meet Abdul: The most talented Dabo Babies player of all time

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Picking out the footballing stars of the future is a tricky task.

There are so many factors which could hinder the progression of even the most professional of teenagers.

But some do seem destined to reach the top, while others display a work ethic that’s even greater than the natural talent at their disposal.

The second paragraph could be the case with Dabo Babies talented, 19-year-old forward Abdul Attacker.

He burst onto the scene when he was playing for a local club, Golden Bullet and was snapped up by famous Dabo Babes FC after the departure of former Nigeria U-20 star, Nazifi Yahaya.

And has since caught the attention of football enthusiast across the country with his brilliant display for Dabo Babes.

Abdul tormented four-time Nigeria Professional Football League Champions, Kano Pillars FC after he scored twice against the Sai Masu Gida in a friendly match before the kickoff of the second stanza of the just concluded 2020/2021 Nigeria Professional Football League season (NPFL).

He was the catalyst to Dabo Babes good run to the Kano state Tofa Premier League title driving the famous academy from game to game until they reach the final.

The dazzling forward produces mouthwatering display to earn himself accolades from the Pen Profession who could not hide their love for the next Super Star during the Tofa Premier League final.

He likes his game to that of Real Madrid forward, Karim Benzema and Bayern Munich deadly striker, Robert Lewandowski.

The 19-year-old’s talent and versatility has some people wondering whether he could be a bolster for the Nigeria National U-20 team, the Flying Eagles for their upcoming assignments.

As preparations for the 2020/21 Nigeria Professional Football League season gearing towards climax, many top clubs are interested in snapping him to bolster their squad as well as few other European top teams.

He has scored 55 goals and provided further 22 assists for Dabo Babes in less than three and a half years.

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Opinion

Lamido, Jega celebrate NEPU @ 71 

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Aminu Kano

Dr. Nuruddeen Muhammad 

Yesterday, Sunday, the 8th of August, 2021, I accompanied His Excellency Dr Sule Lamido  (CON) who was the speaker at a symposium organised by the Aminu Kano Centre for Democratic Studies, Bayero University Kano (Mambayya House) to commemorate the 71st anniversary of the founding of the Northern Elements Progressives Union (NEPU), with the theme; ‘Politics of Principles and the Phenomenon of Political Party Defections in Nigeria’.

Sule Lamido

The event which held under the distinguished chairmanship of the cerebral Dr. Tijjani Muhammad Naniya, also had the ebullient Dr. Auwalu Anwar as the sole discussant. While Professor Attahiru Jega, Professor Dandatti Abdulkadir, Dr. Akilu Sani Indabawa, Professor Hafiz Abubakar, Professor Sule Bello, Dr. Nasir Fagge, former NEPU/PRP regional, federal and state parliamentarians, women and youth leaders from across the country, notably Kano, Jigawa, Katsina and Kaduna States all ran incisive commentaries.

Prof. Dandatti Abdulkadir

The cacophony of voices were as fierce as they were sharply different in tone, content and delivery. But by far, that which stood out and generated most responses was Dr Lamido’s lead assertion that the raison d’etre for the NEPU/PRP ideological and political initiatives was to liberate the common folks (the Talakawas), first from the clutches of the combined reppression of the colonial overloads and their willing surrogates in the Native Authority establishments in Northern Nigeria, and the restrictions placed on them in political participation, aspirations and freedoms.

He forcefully argued that the movements have achieved on both counts as the children of yesterday’s Talakawas are today the new overloads and oppressors who deny their fellow Talakawas quality leadership as presidents, governors, parliamentarians, ministers, council chairmen and their councils. He concluded that the movements (atleast as organised political actions) should rest and cease to exist. And that today’s progressives should instead leverage around available political opportunities/platforms to confront the existing selfish order using present day political sentiments and realities as mobilization tools.

Prof. Hafiz Abubakar

But recalling copiously from memory, the lead speaker canvassed for an ideological graft transplant from the NEPU/PRP days in ways that the moral and ethical characters of both politics and governance of today can benefit from the sound value systems of old oder.

He narrated how he first resigned as a member of the House of Representatives in Lagos in 1983 purely on moral grounds, and then flew to Kano to convince the then Governor Alhaji Abubakar Rimi to do same as the governor of the old Kano State when the duo defected from the People’s Redemption Party (PRP) that gave them the mandates in the first place.

He then described the present phenomenon of political party defections in Nigeria as the worst form of corruption.

This profound submission drew a symphony of responses from today’s PRP practitioners who are mostly academics. Leading the park was Professor Attahiru Jega who argued that without justice in leadership and the level of impunity as is the case today, the NEPU/PRP cause has just begun and asked Sule Lamido to come lead the national onslaught.

Many other PhDs and Professors joined in the call that Lamido would later say lacked sufficient local and broader national political insight. It is significant to note that I was to totally align myself with the Sule Lamido’s perspective of the argument only yesterday, having engaged with him for over a decade on the same exact topic as the Jegas had done yesterday at Mambayya.

I am now fully convinced that the NEPU/PRP politics exclusively represented yesterday’s political sentiments and realities in the North with no much utility for either our present political and social circumstances or broader national appeal.

Sule Lamido, Dr Nuruddeen Muhammad and other guests

The Mambayya rendezvous is prehaps the only remaining theatre in Nigeria where political practitioners, activists and ideologues meet political researchers, theorists and even wannabees in a real time intellectual brawl. Bayero University Kano is both creative and thoughful in this annual ritual. Mallam Aminu Kano and his comrades had lived a very politically active, intellectually robust, and ideologically/philosophically sound lives to deserve this honour.

When academic excellence and classroom sense meet self taught philosophers and the practical hands on the streets, a cetain unique flavour emerges. Yesterday’s flavor has unfortunately left a distinctively sour test in my mouth. The fact that the Talaka is today his very own oppressor is a very bitter pill for some of us to swallow. And even more bitter is the second fact that the second on coming liberation of the Talakawas (from themselves this time around) will have to invent it’s devices with no NEPU/PRP emotional relic to rely on.

This, on a very personal note, was a befitting way to round off my three weeks extended sallah visit in Jigawa.

Dr. Muhammad was Nigeria’s former Minister of State for Foreign Affairs & Federal Minister of Information as

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