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The credentials of Comrade Adams Aliu Oshiomhole in human rights struggles are relatively unassailable and evidently unmatched in Nigeria’s labour history. His long travails over the years on this account could only stem from deep quest for  the triumph of truth over falsehood, and principles over deceit. This trait is also a clear testament  of dispassionate empathy with the oppressed and distressed, no matter whose ox is gored. A man of such courage therefore is obviously not one to be afraid of the truth and therefore needs no one to lie on his behalf. However, in the cesspit of some of today’s political hustlers, casting unwarranted aspersions on imaginary antagonists of the Comrade Governor is perhaps their best way of displaying loyalty, in view of stomach infrastructure, even when such crude tactics invariably erode, rather than add to the profile of one who may already be a statesman.

The above scenario turned really absurd in the Vanguard publication of Tuesday August 26, 2014, page 47, when a nondescript group called Coalition for Good Governance and Economic Justice (CGGEJA) was alleging in a bold header that “Disgruntled politicians trying to blackmail Oshiomhole-led administration!”. Any intelligent reader of this credible newspaper would wonder who among the known and unapologetic  politicians or groups are again at their game, but behold the “politicians” cited in this report are the management of the State-owned Zoological Gardens ( Ogba Zoo and Nature Park), a foremost eco-tourism heritage of Edo State!

 

The report stated that the Zoo suffered a flood disaster in the year 2012, which on its own, the group attributes to natural causes, but that the zoo management was using the incident as a pretext  to “reap where they did not sow” by laying claim to huge sums as compensation, ostensibly from the Governor. In addressing this assault on the image and integrity of this famous zoo and its illustrious management, it is necessary to begin by establishing that this issue of Ogba Zoo flood disaster has been evidently in the public domain sufficiently – via the major electronic and some print media, to preclude any doubts as to the facts of the matter. Only a mischief maker in self-deceit would therefore seek to misinform the public with any new or baseless claim.

 

That a massive flooding ravaged the zoo on Nov 6, 2012 is not in dispute, as the incident was covered by such major channels as NTA and the State Broadcasting Service (EBS) and aired to the public. That a Director in the State Ministry of Environment visited the Zoo a day after the incident, along with the Airport Road Project Consultant, as well as the Site Engineer for the contract firm Setraco, was also reported in the same electronic media. In an interview with NTA at the scene of the disaster, the then Director of Environment, who led the group, was recorded as saying that they came jointly to assess the damage to the zoo by flooding occasioned by the ongoing construction of Airport Road by Setraco Construction Company. He concluded by saying that from “their assessment, the damage to the zoo is enormous and Government will have to make sure that the zoo is urgently assisted to get back to shape”.

 

 In the last few weeks, video clips of this NTA interview were again aired to the public following a recent ITV interview by the Honourable Commissioner of Environment Prince Clem Agba, in which he stated that the Zoo flooding incident “was an act of God” and that Setraco, the contractor, only worked about two kilometres from the zoo. It would, therefore, have been easy to conclude that the above statements by the commissioner gave impetus to this faceless group to allege that the incident was due to natural causes, but  the Commissioner was later reported in the same media as saying that he had consulted with Setraco and that they both had agreed to “part with about Five Million Niara to the Zoo management” as compensation, which he said was rejected! Pls google ITV news on U-tube for these reports. Also take a look at the pictures below.

 

 This narrative does help to prove largely that the zoo flooding incident was not an act of nature, but probable negligence on the part of Setraco, the road construction company, who had excavated the gutters in front of the zoo and heaped mountains of construction debris all over the road. In defending our image further, we must allude to other facts that have also been aired in the media, due to their capacity to throw light on the relevant circumstances. These include references to the setting up  of a panel of inquiry by Government that looked into the incident, but which report has never seen the light of day. It is to be expected that such a panel would be the proper recourse to unravelling the facts of the matter and extent of compensation due, if at all. Some individuals and communities were compensated by Setraco from the same and other flooding incidents but curiously, attempts are being made to brand this one as being solely of natural causes. 

 

It was also reported in both NTA and ITV news that the Oba of Benin, in his sensitive nature, had corroborated the report on the flooding incident by writing to the Governor and wondering why no restitution had been made after nearly one year, as at then. Importantly too, it must be noted that  alb initio, the Zoo claim for restitution was directed at the company Setraco and never presented as a liability of the State Government as alluded to in that article under reference. The only role requested  of Government was that it not only had the regulatory function of probing the incident, but the moral obligation of ensuring that justice is served, since  Setraco was a client of the State Government at the material time. Coincidentally too, the zoo is a property of the State Government, with the current management being private investors with a lease holding that paved way for the resuscitation and development of the zoo under PPP, after it had suffered neglect and collapse under Government in the past.

 

In the above circumstance, therefore, it has been the expectation that Government’s role all along would be to urgently move to guarantee the legitimate interest of the zoo by sorting out the facts of the incident and ensuring timely restitution. So it is baffling that despites these issues having been sufficiently in the public domain, this CGGEJA group would seek to portray the zoo and its management, in that Vanguard report, as disgruntled politicians who are only out to blackmail His Excellency the Comrade Governor for underserved compensation.   

 

The zoo management has always steered clear of political issues and do not need that distraction. In the last 20 months the Management had sufficiently trusted in the capacity of Government to resolve these issues, otherwise the law courts would have been its first recourse. The zoo management does not need political jobbers and interlopers to determine how much it should claim by way of compensation, since it is obviously equipped with the requisite technical backing for any claim it desires to make and not the guess work of attention seekers.

 

Considering that world over, zoos are deserving of strong institutional support and charity, which unfortunately do not obtain in this socio-cultural environment, we are constrained to place on record the shocking fact that at the time of this horrific flooding incident and till date, there was no emergency response by Government or the contractor to help with the salvage operations, since the reports had it that many wildlife species were affected and in torment, while many wildlife enclosures were either damaged or destroyed, as well as valuable properties lost. It was also expected that issues of wildlife escape and public safety concerns should have prompted at least the recourse to corporate social responsibility.

 

The relevant officials were on record to have encouraged the zoo management to engage the services of disaster valuers, which was conscientiously done, even at huge additional expense to the massive restoration works for salvaging the zoo and its wildlife exhibits. It is also known that for so many months following the incident, several appeals and petitions were forwarded by the Zoo Management to both the State Government and its client, Setraco, but none elicited any tangible response. No consideration was given to the huge veterinary and environmental fallouts and attendant stressful challenges in the need to save the animals. That many rare wildlife species subsequently succumbed to various maladies and died is traceable to the pollutants and trauma from the flood incident.

 

That Setraco Construction Company who has been linked to the disaster never rendered any assistance towards the rescue and restoration processes as reported in the media, in spite of the urgency demanded by the situation, is a moral burden with smacks of insensitivity, which cannot happen in any civilized society. Yet the issue of compensation has been turned into a waiting game going to two years now, to the point when it could only become like medicine after death. So rather than lending their voice to the undiluted facts of this matter to ensure that justice is not delayed, it is being alleged in that Vanguard report that the zoo management is engaged in the politics of blackmailing the Comrade Governor.

 

In conclusion, in view of the damaging syndrome of amnesia is often displayed, we must reemphasize that this zoo had earlier collapsed and was in decay under Government management in the eighties and nineties, which fate was reversed and substantially upgraded by the current management before this flooding disaster. So this flood incident is like a second death sentence, in which the same management is again saddled with  the overarching responsibility of nurturing it back to life unaided. It is also of public interest that the Zoo has been suffering massive land encroachment, which is traceable to Government’s complicity. As pioneers in such a rescue mission for a distressed zoo, under any sane context, it is expected that the zoo management ought to be shown encouragement and not condemnation.

 

Andy Osa  Ehanire KSC

MD / CE, Ogba Zoo & Nature Park

Vice President South-South,

Association of Tourism Practitioners of Nigeria (ATPN)

 

The credentials of Comrade Adams Aliu Oshiomhole in human rights struggles are relatively unassailable and evidently unmatched in Nigeria’s labour history. His long travails over the years on this account could only stem from deep quest for  the triumph of truth over falsehood, and principles over deceit. This trait is also a clear testament  of dispassionate empathy with the oppressed and distressed, no matter whose ox is gored. A man of such courage therefore is obviously not one to be afraid of the truth and therefore needs no one to lie on his behalf. However, in the cesspit of some of today’s political hustlers, casting unwarranted aspersions on imaginary antagonists of the Comrade Governor is perhaps their best way of displaying loyalty, in view of stomach infrastructure, even when such crude tactics invariably erode, rather than add to the profile of one who may already be a statesman.

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