The Oyo State Commissioner of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Mr Williams Akin-Funmilayo, has stated that the planned Housing Estate Project, Baywood Estate, will not consume the Agodi Botanical Gardens.
The commissioner, who noted that some residents of the state have confused the site of the planned estate to include Agodi Botanical Gardens, clarified that while the garden sits on 9.11 hectares of land, the large expanse of 46.3 hectares of forest behind the Gardens is to be converted to Baywood Housing Estate.
Akin-Funmilayo stated this while conducting newsmen round the Agodi Botanical Gardens and the planned site of the estate, noting that the clarifications became important to educate the people of the state.
Noting that Agodi Gardens is one of the remaining legacies inherited by the Governor ‘Seyi Makinde administration, the commissioner maintained that the recreational facility will be protected and even upgraded to an international Botanical Garden in due course.
The commissioner equally debunked the false allegation that the state government had been cutting down the trees in the forest, adding that the state government has taken the decision that 80 per cent of the trees in the forest would be retained despite the housing estate project.
Akin-Funmilayo, who took journalists round the forest, explained that the government has taken the proactive step to convert the forest to a housing estate because the forest has become a hideout for hoodlums, thieves, kidnappers and perpetrators of many heinous acts, not only in the night but also in broad daylight.
He said the conversion of the forest to a housing estate is a laudable development that would benefit the people of the state by reducing housing deficit.
Speaking to newsmen after the tour of the two sites, the commissioner explained the different segmentations of the vast land, saying “there are three identities here; the garden, fishery department, and forest, which the state government is trying to build on. Agodi Garden remains intact. But the forest has become a threat, which we have heard and seen. Many people have lost their lives here. Hoodlums and thieves waylay people around the corridor even during broad daylight. Moving from Parliament Road to Premier Junction can be dreadful.
“I believe that you as journalists are now aware of where the proposed estate is going to be sited and I believe you have seen for yourselves that trees here are still intact and they have not been brought down as being insinuated.
“Behind me is Agodi Gardens and this river divides the Agodi Gardens and our prospective estate. At the extreme there, we have the zoological garden, which is still there.”
The commissioner, who showed a survey plan of the area to newsmen, indicated that the whole expanse of land comprised the Agodi Gardens, Office of the Department of Fisheries, and the forest and that the portion that belonged to Agodi Gardens is 9.1 hectares, with trees marking the natural division between the garden and the rest of the land, while fishery department sits on 1.2 hectares of land at the corner.
“The rest of the forest is 46.63 hectares, which is now being developed into Baywood Estate. There is no directive, policy or instruction from any quarters that says Agodi Garden should be converted to a housing estate and there is no intention to alter the constructions here. So, the idea that the garden will be converted is a figment of the imagination of the people who refuse to seek the truth,” he said.
Responding to how the conversion of forest to a housing estate could impact on climatic conditions, the commissioner said: “One of the values of this estate is the preservation of these trees and that is why the name of the estate is ‘Baywood.’ So, the wood is highly significant.
“Oyo State residents should know and rest assured that the government will preserve this forest to the best of our ability, because this administration understands the implications of deforestation and its import on climate change. There might be a few casualties in the provision of infrastructure, but I can tell you that they will be re-planted.
“When this project is completed, it is going to be in a world of its own and a beauty to behold. So, I am reassuring you that the state government has nothing to do with Agodi Gardens as far as the estate construction is concerned. The area that will be converted to an estate is where we are now.
“The reality is that people cannot pass through this road freely between 7 p.m. and 8 a.m.without fear, because of the high rate of criminality around this corner and the fact that there is vast forest to escape into. Thus, the government is justified for trying to add value to the environment by providing housing instead of keeping the forest and allowing it to remain a habitat for criminals, kidnappers, and evil doers in the society.
“The government of Oyo State does not have any intention to convert Agodi Garden to a housing estate. The plan is to upgrade the garden to an international botanical garden, which will serve the people of Oyo State better than it is right now,” Akin-Funmilayo added.