AS a testament to the often-said lack of maintenance culture that typifies Nigeria, the makeover of Lagos gardens that was one of the hallmarks of the Babatunde Fashola administration is sliding gradually to its former state.
Many of the parks and flower gardens that dot the landscape of several parts of Lagos have been left to rot, almost turning into its previous states – dumping sites, hideout for hoodlums and mini kiosks.
The Guardian investigation revealed a neglect of some Lagos parks and gardens, once touted as one of Fashola’s greatest achievements. A visit to some of the gardens in Masha-Adelabu roundabout, Ojota garden and Obanikoro/Onipanu flower garden on Ikorodu Road glaringly showed a near decay.
Statutorily, the Lagos State Parks and Gardens Agency (LASPARK) is the body set up to oversee the proper maintenance of the gardens, but the agency seems to have abandoned its duty, thereby making some of the gardens a horrible sight to behold.
According to a commuter, Kayode Ajanaku, the city has started to lose beauty and charm, which the originator of the gardens had in mind.
“The gardens were one of the things that made the city of Lagos look fantastic. I remember many visitors then exclaiming with surprised looks: ‘Is this Lagos?’ ‘Wow! This is lovely’; ‘Can this be Lagos?’”
Ms. Chioma Adibe, who spoke to The Guardian at Masha-Adelabu area, said the allure of the project has been lost. “This garden used to be a beautiful place where I see people sit down to gist and relax. Others simply walk up here to read or escape the hot sun by feeling the afternoon breeze. It sparked up this road up but sadly, it has now become a dumpsite.”
A gardener, popularly called Bishop, who worked at the Adelabu gardens, complained about non-payment of salaries, adding that it was responsible for the poor maintenance of the flowers and plants.
His words: “I was one of those people who used to maintain this garden but six months later after they commissioned the road, they stopped paying us salary to take care of the place. At first we continued for four months extra without pay, but when our pay was not forthcoming, we stopped working. Till this day we have not been paid and we cannot continue taking care of the garden while someone else is getting paid.”
An official of LASPARK who spoke to The Guardian on the condition of anonymity, blamed the present poor state of the gardens on the harmattan but said work was in progress to address the situation by contacting the contractors to return to the garden to trim them and keep them clean.
At a recent Greening Stakeholders’ Forum of LASPARK with the private sector, the Lagos State governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, had called on the private sector to partner with the state in the continued campaign for environmental regeneration and sustainability, through the building of more parks and gardens across Lagos.
Ambode, who was represented by the Secretary to the State Government, Dr. Tunji Bello, disclosed that the state had in the last eight years, set up no fewer than 300 parks and gardens across and created over 97,000 jobs in the process.