The remodelling of Ilọrin Flower Garden by the Kwara State Government has excited residents, many of who have been victims of the crimes that were perpetrated in and around the facility because of years of abandonment. Daily Trust on Sunday writes on the new state of the garden and residents’ reactions.
For some residents of the highbrow Government Reservation Area (GRA) and the adjoining streets in Ilọrin, the Kwara State capital, the transformation of Ilọrin Flower Garden has brought a huge relief.
As a place of relaxation, picnics and educational research for students, with a wide range of exotic fruits and trees, people from far and near would usually visit the garden to escape the hustle and bustle of the metropolis and enjoy its serene atmosphere.
However, the story changed overtime following long years of abandonment by the government. As a result, the unkempt bushes and trees turned the place into a shadow of itself and den of criminals and refuge for hoodlums. Some even described it as “the base of all the criminals in Ilọrin.”
Many residents, vehicle owners and passersby who found themselves around the place, especially during nocturnal hours, have had sad tales to tell as they were dispossessed of their belongings. Some even escaped death by the whiskers.
There were widespread but unconfirmed reports of some attacks by the hoodlums who had used the place as refuge, which led to deaths.
But the facility has become a cynosure of eyes with the present transformation by the present administration of Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq.
According to the government, the new Flower Garden will not only create new jobs but serve as a top relaxation/tourist destination, improve the aesthetics and revenue of the state and serve as an attraction site for economic development.
Speaking to Daily Trust on Sunday, residents of the area said the development was indescribable, going by the trauma and anxiety they had lived with for years.
Hajiya Bilikisu Haruna, a yam seller opposite the garden, said it was a huge relief when the state government started the remodelling.
“I came to this place in 1994. Then, we were always afraid throughout the period we would be outside selling from morning till evening because we didn’t know the crime that would be committed next. Our hearts were always in our mouths.
“Once it was 5pm we would pack our wares for fear of attack.
“The place was taken over by hemp smokers, robbers and even killers. They used this place as refuge. And none of the residents were bold enough to go inside and ask what they were doing there or chase them away, except such person was ready to commit suicide.
“We cannot quantify the kind of relief the renovation of this place has brought. We did not expect that the governor would undertake this project, especially considering the previous renovation experiences.
“Now, it will be difficult to perpetrate evil under any guise or in the dark again as it used to be because the place is now open and very beautiful,” she said.
Narrating some of the atrocities that took place in the place before now, Hajiya Bilikisu said, “There was a day some hoodlums almost killed an officer. He was stabbed and he fell into the gutter and left to die. He was rescued when they guys left. It was terrible.
“A daughter of my friend selling secondhand clothes around Tanke junction was attacked while going to church for a vigil around 7pm by some set of guys inside a vehicle. They attempted to kidnap her but she escaped and they threw a knife at her, which hit her in the buttocks before some residents who heard her shout came out and rushed her inside before those guys sped off.
“Sometimes, these criminals – males and females – would come to rob us and run into the place, and we dared not go inside with them,” she added.
She said when the remodelling, started, many people in the area expressed doubt because of past experiences from the action of the government until now that they can see the reality.
“This is a huge investment and I plead with the state government not to let it waste. They should sustain and maintain it because it will be a serious setback and catastrophe for the place to return to its old status. I pray and plead with the governor to do everything possible to ensure this place is sustained,” she submitted.
On his part, a furniture maker adjacent the place, who has spent about 20 years in the area, Francis Nwana, who hails from Cross Rivers State said, “It is unbelievable that this place can be transformed like this.
“The overgrown bushes were a serious security threat and we were all very afraid.
“Some hoodlums on a bike had attacked the wife of my apprentice here. They wanted to collect her phone but she refused, and in an attempt to hit her with a bottle, she dodged but it went straight to the head of her baby on her back. The little child was rushed to the hospital and her head stitched.
“About two years ago, we apprehended 9 people, including a female, inside the place, digging a hole that could contain six cars. They had spent about two months digging before we discovered it after we employed some vigilantes. They would come between 12am and 4am.
“We have to take the action because they gave the shop owners an ultimatum to produce the people behind it or face eviction. They were arrested and handed to the police, and up till now, we don’t know what their motive was. The discovery was very frightening.
“There have been several cases of attack on passersby and customers of hotels around the area,” Nwana said.
He implored the government to also “rehabilitate the roads around the facility and control the erosion that has already appeared in the place.
“The rain that fell on Monday created two deep holes on a section of the road behind the bridge that had been repaired after its recent collapse. There is a need for speed breakers to reduce the speed at which motorists negotiate the bend that opens up to the Word of Assembly Church besides it. There should also be the provision of streetlights to illuminate the place and stop the evil that can be perpetrated under the cover of the night.
“The garden should be handled properly to boost tourism and employment. But it must not be allowed to slide into its inglorious and worrying past that became a huge security threat,” he added.
On her part, Aisha, who has a provision shop in the area, told Daily Trust on Sunday that “This place has really changed and people now pay attention to it.
“Because of the activities of criminals who usually robbed people in the night, this place was avoided, especially when it was getting dark.
“When I came to this shop, people thought I was possessed; and my family and friends criticised me heavily for it. They could not fathom why I would rent a shop in this area despite the danger surrounding it. But I had the belief that it would later turn out to be a goldmine. It is now a reality.
“At that time, before 7pm, I would have closed for fear of an attack. My sister was once robbed inside the shop. But it will be difficult to rob or arm people now around the place and people will not know. They can no longer hide inside to perpetrate evil.
“This will improve the economy of this place by 100 per cent and can make it compete or even surpass places like ShopRite because of its location. You don’t know how happy we are with this development,” she said.
A fruit seller, Mohammed Haruna also said, “We can see and appreciate the beauty of this place, unlike before when it was bushy and we didn’t know what was going on inside.
“We used to close around 5:30pm, but now, we stay till 8pm. We know that by the time it is finally opened by the government, it will revolutionise business here.”
The state government had recently announced the beautification of the place and subsequently cordoned it off as part of its efforts to make the place a one stop recreation centre.
The former Commissioner for Environment, Mrs Remilekun Banigbe, during her visit to the site of the project last year, said it would give a facelift to the garden as a green area for relaxation and healthy social interaction.
“This idea of turning around the place will further beautify the state, generate revenues for the government, and promote work-life balance for the citizenry who can visit the garden for leisure purposes.
“The Flower Garden landscaping and beautification is another effort of the AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq administration to reposition Kwara as one of the states that prioritise work-life balance and social needs of its people.
“A section of the garden has been designed to house a book club for children, aimed at promoting reading culture among young people in the state,” she said.
Speaking with our correspondent on Thursday, the Director of Forestry, Ministry of Environment, Alhaji Babatunde Mahmud, said the aim of the remodelling was “to decongest other areas of public functions and recreational activities that used to cause overcrowding in the town.
“The efforts will also make the Flower Garden a first class recreational centre for people, picnics, and for students’ educational research activities, unlike at a time when people used to hide there to do evil things.
“The place is like a forestry laboratory, where different seedlings were planted for research purposes, which is also part of the new plans with the varieties of tree species we have there.
“But we don’t know whether the government would run it or hand it over to individuals because the contractor is yet to hand it over.”
Coups: Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso alliance won’t weaken ECOWAS resolve for democracy — Tinubu
President Bola Tinubu on Sunday said the Sahel Alliance by Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso which are under military dictatorship would not lessen the resolve of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, to uphold its primary objective.
President Tinubu also said that the regional bloc will re-engage member countries under military rule based on realistic and short transition plans that would deliver democracy and good governance.
He said the new approach will help to achieve a quicker return to constitutional democracy in some of the West African Countries.
Speaking in his opening address at the 64th Ordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government at the Old Banquet Hall, Presidential Villa, Abuja, the Nigerian President, who said that there is no place for military rule in Africa, explained that the objective of the ECOWAS in insisting for democracy is to prioritise good governance for West Africans, as it catalyzes socioeconomic transformation and development.
He told heads of state that, “It is important that we also review some development in our sub-region, including the move by some of our members under Military rule to float an Alliance of Sahel States.
“This phantom, push back-alliance appears intended to divert attention from our mutual quest for democracy and good governance that will impact the life of our people.
“We refuse to be detracted from pursuing the collective dreams, aspirations and the noble path of ECOWAS integration as laid out in our institutional and legal frameworks.”
Recall that in September 2023, Mali’s Assimi Goita, who seized power in a military coup in 2020, explained that the “Liptako-Gourma Charter” forms the building block for an “Alliance of Sahel States to establish a collective defence and mutual assistance framework for our populations.”
This is coming on the heels of months of diplomatic row in the wake of the coup d’état in Niger that overthrew the Mohamed Bazoum-led government in Republic of Niger that attracted anger, sanctions and even the threat of military intervention from the ECOWAS.
But in his address at the Extraordinary Session in Abuja, the regional body Chairman maintained that the sanctions on the countries that overthrew the democratically elected leaders were meant to protect the fundamental liberties of the citizens.
According to him, “While the imposition of punitive sanctions may pose challenges, it is important to underscore that the struggle to protect the fundamental liberties of our Community Citizens must be upheld and respected.
“To this end, I would like to reiterate the imperative of re-engaging with the countries under military rule on the basis of realistic and short transition plans that can deliver democracy and good governance.
“On our part, we should be prepared to provide them with technical and material support to ensure the achievement of these strategic goals.
“We must pay attention to protect the institution and protect democracy I wish to underscore the fact that we stand against the unconstitutional change of government in our sub-region and we will continue to do so.”
He reiterated that Military rule is an aberration that subverts the popular will of the people hence it no longer has a place in Africa.
He said, “The message must go out loud and clear military rule has become an aberration that subverts the popular will of the people. It no longer has any place in Africa.
“Our people must be allowed to exercise their freedom of choice without let or hindrance. For democracy to endure in our sub-region, we must improve on good government and respect human rights and the rule of law.”
However, he said member states must “improve on good government and respect human rights and the rule of law” for democracy to endure in the sub-region.
Tinubu also commended his Liberian counterpart, George Weah, for conceding defeat at the just-concluded presidential elections and laying the groundwork for a smooth transition of power.
“By conceding defeat and congratulating his opponent, President Weah has left a legacy to be emulated by politicians in our region and beyond.
“On behalf of Members of the Authority, I express gratitude for his significant contributions to the Organization and wish him the very best in all his future endeavours,” said the President.
He assured the Sierra Leonean President, Julius Bio and Guinea Bissau’s Umaro Embalo of the bloc’s support in preserving democracy.
Tinubu said, “On the recent disturbances in Sierra Leone and Guinea Bissau, let me express my solidarity with the People and Government of Sierra Leone and Guinea Bissau.
“I wish also to underscore our unequivocal stance against any form of unconstitutional change of government in our sub-region.
“I therefore urge all of us to stand strong and united in solidarity with the People and Governments of Sierra Leone and Guinea Bissau in the face of these unfortunate incidents.”
On his part, the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr Omar Touray, lamented that while the Niger Junta continues to hold Bazoum and his family hostage, they are also interfering with the flow of humanitarian support to vulnerable populations.
“The military authorities have unfortunately shown little remorse as they hold onto their untenable positions, holding not only Mohamed Bazoum, his family and members of his government hostage but also the people of Niger.
“And in line with the provisions of our community texts, they granted humanitarian access to medical and humanitarian goods for the sake of the people
2024 Budget: Group asks FG to increase budget to education sector
The Executive Director of the FlexiSAF, Amina Abubakar, has called on the federal government and the National Assembly to increase the budgetary allocation to the education sector and implement it’s policy of free basic education for all.
She made the call after embarking on a walk tagged “Walk for Education 3.0” to draw the attention of critical stakeholders to the need to improve education in the country.
According to her, despite the United Nations’ goal for education, Nigeria remains one of the countries with the highest number of out-of-school children in the world, adding that Nigeria still has more than 10 million children out there who can’t afford education.
” We have more than 10 million children out of school which is one of the highest in the world and UNESCO recommended at least 23% of the budget be set aside for education but right now only 8.2 percent is been set aside and even with that no proper implementation, no teachers in school, poor learning environment.
” If the government promises free and quality education let it be so because in the communities, parents are asked to bring a lot of money they can’t afford so they keep the children out of school the objective is to raise resources to send these children back to school. We want to empower young people.
“We are pushing for the National Assembly to increase the budget for education. Right now the state of education in Nigeria is nothing to write home about, it is a state of emergency, and 2030 is seven years away we have spent 8 years since the declaration by the United Nations in 2015 globally we only made 15% progress so we want the National Assembly to increase so we can achieve the set goal. The federal government must increase the budget.
“So today our target is that we want the government to implement free education for all. The government says education is free, basic education is free. But a lot of children are not in school because it is not free,” she said.
She further stated that the target of the organization was to ensure that at least 600 children get back to school.
“After we achieve that, part of our future plans is to make this work bigger, even more strategic. The more we get embedded into the space, build our capacity, we would make it more and more big,” she said.
She called for support from the government and other relevant stakeholders to achieve their objective.
“I want to reiterate the theme for this year, which is “2030 and the horizon. We are trying to better each and every year. Kindly come to our tables to make a commitment to help children go back to school. As you can see the children you have seen here are from our accelerated learning program. It is a non formal learning programme that helps kids in the community.
“The children don’t have to go to school everyday for long hours so we have community acceptability. Instead of learning for nine years, these over aged children they learn in three years. So you may be wondering what kind of expertise does this FlexiSAF Foundation have that they are giving education meant for nine years in three years. What kind of madness is that? I am telling you, it is not madness. It true. In fact it is a nationally approved accelerated education curriculum. It is also called accelrated basic education. Instead of learning in nine years these children learn in three years.
“What you saw here they learnt in less than 12 months and this girl is speaking English to you and everything. So please do well to encourage FlexiSAF foundation. The Foundation was established in 2018 and so far we have supported more than 5000 children and with your support we can do more.
We even feed this children as you can see them. We don’t believe we can do this work alone. Everybody has to come together. We have together to speak with one voice.
Director General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Dr Kashifu Inuwa, said digital infrastructure was necessary to get quality education.
“So at NITDA we have part of our strategic roadmap and action plan. We have a pillar to include inclusive access to digital infrastructure and services. And for the past four years we have implemented more than 1200 projects in unserved and underserved communities mostly in the education system; secondary schools and higher institutions.
“So we will do more and also we have a target of implementing the national literacy framework to achieve 95% digital literacy by 2030. So, we want to work with foundations like to define our initiative for quality and inclusive access to education through digital infrastructure. From next year we are coming up with the new initiative; learning centres will be deployed three per state. Our target is public schools where they don’t have infrastructure,” he said.
The Special Adviser to the Minister of State for Education Mrs. Claris Ojani urged the legislative arm of Government to and implement that will enable children leave the streets and acquire basic education.
She pledged the support of the Federal Government to the initial by FlexiSAF
Kwara Gov receives VP Kashim Shettima in Ilorin hails peace harmony in Kwara
Kwara State Governor and Chairman Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq on Saturday received Vice President Kashim Shettima (GCON) in Ilorin, the state capital, amid a rousing welcome by several APC leaders and people of the state.
Vice President Shettima was received by the Governor at the Tunde Idiagbon Airport, joined by Deputy Governor Kayode Alabi; Speaker Kwara House of Assembly Rt Hon Yakubu Salihu Danladi; Sen Salihu Mustapha (Kwara Central); Sen. Sadiq Umar (North); some members of the state executive council; and CEO KAM Holdings Nigeria Alhaji Kamaru Yusuf.
The Vice President touched down at the airport at exactly 3p.m., accompanied by his Special Assistant on Political Matters Dr. Hakeem Baba Ahmed; and top APC chieftain Dr. Isia’q Modibbo Kawu; among others.
Shettima headed to the Al-Hikmah University, Ilorin, where he commissioned the institution’s Nursing Science Complex, which has been named after him.
The Vice President then delivered the university’s 13th convocation lecture that was themed ‘Addressing Nigeria’s Food Security Challenges Through Hi-Tech Approach: The Role of Nigerian Universities’.
Other dignitaries at the occasion included the Inspector General of Police IGP Kayode Egbetokun, who has just received his doctoral degree from the institution; founder of the University Chief AbdulRaheem Oladimeji (OFR); and Vice Chancellor of the University Prof. Noah Yusuf.
Shettima, in his lecture, said Nigeria’s reliance on oil since the early 70s and the neglect of the agricultural sector are responsible for what has today become a national security challenge in the form of food insecurity.
He said the challenge assumed a disturbing proportion as a result of policy inconsistencies, mismanagement of resources, corruption, climate change, insurgencies, and natural disasters, among others.
He said President Bola Ahmed Tinubu understands the nexus between food production and national security, and has declared a state of emergency on food security alongside a policy commitment to improve productivity by injecting more funds in the sector.
Tertiary institutions are playing critical roles in assisting the Federal Government to promote food security in Nigeria through research and the integration of agricultural study in their curriculum, the vice president said.
He said no appreciable progress can be made in agricultural production without mechanization, calling for increased and efficient use of modern technology to maximise yield.
The Vice President described Governor AbdulRazaq as a prudent leader and commended him for various agricultural initiatives the administration has introduced to boost food production in the state.
Speaking about the cultural composition of Ilorin, which he said exemplifies a spirit of brotherhood, Shettima said Nigeria has a lot to learn from the ancient city, calling on all indigenes of Ilorin to continue to be tolerant and supportive of one another.
Chief Press Secretary to the Governor
December 9, 2023
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