Enhancing greener Lagos campaign (2)

(By Izuchukwu Ezukanma)

Lagos State can easily compel individuals and businesses to own trees by ensuring that the provision of tree spaces is a precondition for the approval of building plans and levy a fine on premises without tree spaces. A law to legalise such levies is justified and can be easily enacted by the Lagos State House of Assembly. Given the determined revenue drive of Lagos State Government, such bill will still be under consideration and trees will sprout like mushroom from every conceivable space in Lagos.

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THE first step to a successful tree planting exercise is the selection of generally well adjusted disease and pest resistant species that will thrive with minimal post transplant care. To this end, exotic tree species are not the best candidates for tree planting exercise. For each and every attribute for which exotics are favoured and selected: trunk girth, branching pattern, flower colour, etc, there is an indigenous species with the same and better attributes. To get these species, there is need to seek the constant inputs and collaboration of research institutes in that area such as the Forest Research Institute of Nigeria, FRIN, National Horticultural Research Institute, NIHORT and the departments of Botany in University of Lagos (UNILAG) and Lagos State University (LASU). Collaborations like this will equally help to shore up the specialist manpower needs of an exercise of this magnitude.

It is evident that this exercise has severe requisite manpower constrains. How do we explain away the fact 75,168 workers ended up planting only five million trees (most of which are at present missing) in six years? This means that each worker planted an average of 11 trees in each of the past six years. I presume that Lagos State is a minimum wage compliant state. If these 75,168 workers are engaged on a continuous basis, this amounts to at least N1.35 billion every month spent on labour cost alone.  At this rate, the labour cost alone to plant each of the five million trees is at least N19, 000. I will not like to stretch this further. I still commend Lagos State government for the bold initiative to make Lagos greener because any plan no matter how poorly conceived when executed with boldness is better than inaction. However, there are better ways to make Lagos (or any place in Nigeria) greener; create much more jobs while doing so and at a much reduced cost to government.

Lagos State can easily compel individuals and businesses to own trees by ensuring that the provision of tree spaces is a precondition for the approval of building plans and levy a fine on premises without tree spaces. A law to legalise such levies is justified and can be easily enacted by the Lagos State House of Assembly. Given the determined revenue drive of Lagos State Government, such bill will still be under consideration and trees will sprout like mushroom from every conceivable space in Lagos.

The Lagos State government should sustain and intensify efforts to plant up government premises, starting with the state secretariat complex at Alausa, as well as local government and LCDAs secretariats. Tree space should be made an integral part of road designs and construction. Trees should line the pedestrian walkways just like grasses are fast covering the medians on some of the major roads in Lagos. Space should not be an excuse because there is at least a species to suit any available space. Schools – private and public alike – should be mandated to establish orchards and gardens. To this end, the government should institute competitions and award prices to schools with the best tended gardens and orchards with highest species diversity. This is very important because most school children and most young Lagosians less than 30 years had neither harvested nor scaled a fruit tree all their lives.   Recognising birds that nest and feed on the trees and catching grasshoppers are beyond the realms of knowledge and activities of most children raised in Lagos.

Ultimately, given the crucial roles trees and plants play in our lives and general wellbeing, any undertaking to raise, nurture, and protect them must be all inclusive; it must not be left for the government alone.   We must all participate. If and when we cannot plant a tree; we can raise a garden. Right from our balconies, we can make Lagos and the world greener and healthier. There is no just excuse for inaction! Lagos commendably has shown the way, other states should follow for the overall health of all Nigerians and the beauty of our land.

• Concluded.

• Ezukanma is an environmental pollution monitoring research analyst, 34/36 Ikorodu Road Jibowu, Lagos. + 234 708 119 8262.

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