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The Management of Ogba Zoo led by the Chairman, Chief EU Emovon (first Minister of Science and Tech) and Mr. Andy Ehanire - Director of the Zoo, in a meeting with the Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, in Council, concerning the prolonged incursions by land grabbers into the Zoo.
 
There were positive outcomes including the setting up of high-powered Government Committee to bring up intervention strategies and other recommendations within two weeks.
 
Watch out for the news coverage soon.
 
Many thanks for your concern and prayers.
Ogba Zoo Management led by the Chairman Chief EU Emovon (first Minister of Science and Tech) and Mr.  Andy Ehanire - Director of the Zoo,  met  with Edo State Gov in Council concerning the prolonged incursions by land grabbers into the Zoo. There were positive outcomes including the setting up of high powered Govt Committee to bring up intervention strategies and other recommendations within two weeks. 
 
 
Watch out for the news coverage from tomorrow. 
 
Many thanks for your concern and prayers.
 
 
 
INTERVIEW GRANTED BY MR ANDY OSA EHANIRE,  CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF OGBA ZOO AND NATURE PARK, BENIN CITY; ALSO AS NATIONAL SECRETARY OF THE NIGERIAN ASSOCIATION OF ZOOS AND PARKS (NAZAP): EXCERPTS ON THE CURRENT STATE OF THE ZOO AND THE SECTOR 
 
The Ogba Zoo, which we manage, was designed and developed in the early seventies by then military Administrator, Brig. General S. O. Ogbemudia, now of blessed memory. Its concept was an extensive biological garden, with potentials for resort development. In tandem with the ambitious and iconic scale of Ogbemudia’s drive and vision for then Midwest Region, later Bendel State, and now Edo / Delta States, Ogba Zoo was at par, or even surpassed most of its kind, both far and near. 
 
Soon after Ogbemudia’s regime, Ogba Zoo suffered a long era of decline and eventual collapse, spanning the late eighties and nineties.  By the time of our Private-Sector led intervention in the year 2000, the Zoo was already in the “mortuary” and was like ready to be written off the books. Such was a far cry from the laudable vision of its founder. Our mandate, therefore, was to reverse the rot or what was left of the decayed zoo, in order to revitalize its essential functions as an urban recreational park and field laboratory in the biological sciences where schools and colleges in the entire sub-region derived conservation education and awareness. 
 
 
 It must be understood that the decline and neglect of any zoo is always horrible, since without a proper winding-down procedure, the animals suffered neglect and deprivations akin to torture. It is instructive that the treatment of wildlife in any society can be likened to the barometer for measuring the level of its humanity; hence the circumstances of the collapse of Ogba Zoo, or any of such therefore, would amount to criminal neglect in humane or civilized societies. 
 
Nevertheless, Ogba Zoo experienced a painful rebirth through our rescue mission, which was purely self-financing, with no support from Government. On the contrary, it is the nature of the Lease Agreement that our private sector led eco-tourism outfit pays rents to Government. But as challenging as reviving a dormant zoo was, there were other hidden challenges that can hardly be imagined in a sane society. It started as a minor incursion by community land grabbers into the zoo land, until it was aided by official government instruments in the form of a gazette. Even with Government claiming, soon after, that it committed an error in issuing such gazette, the errant instrument has not been repealed for more than ten years running, but left to serve as a license for unlimited plunder of a foremost tourism heritage of the State. 
 
 
All these years of battling the encroachment on the Zoo, our private-sector led management was as good as left to solely tackle the growing menace unaided. With little or no response to dozens of memos crying for speedy deployment of Government machinery to dislodge and prosecute offenders, the area encroached upon grew from about 10% of the zoo land that was purportedly ceded by the gazette, to more than 60% of the entire  Zoo. It was like a horror movie to see bulldozers levelling priceless forestry in this pristine Conservation heritage that had been a classic urban forest rarely found anywhere in the world. It is a sad commentary that these last three years (2014 to 2016) have seen the greatest devastation of the zoo, even when the then Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, would be making pronouncements as to immediate Government intervention. While not tolerating any nonsense in other areas, all the administrative machineries of his Government were appearing helpless in the face of the onslaught on Ogba Zoo. 
 
 
It eventually dawned on me that I had been encircled by a mammoth conspiracy and therefore published a series of open letters to the Comrade Governor calling for an administrative or judicial inquiry, but all to no avail. It also became evident that a cabal was bent on sharing most of the zoo land without any official Government process but the diabolical ploy of using community youths and thugs as alibi. 
 
 
The sum effect was to create widespread but dangerous impression in the area that Government had acquiesced to sharing the zoo land, but that we were the only ones standing in the way. It was also painfully obvious that the security situation had long degenerated, with threats and suspicions of ecological terrorism becoming a constant nightmare, yet our pleas for police protection went unheeded. It was rather intended to intimidate than merely to inform, when some Government officials hurried to say that an infamous Government political appointee and other cultists were amongst those carrying on with illegal development on the Zoo. Fingers also pointed at House of Assembly Committee members, who were assigned to look into the issues, but spent over three years purporting to be engaging community agents without any new position on the matter, after an initial one had declared that the encroachment was illegal and unacceptable, as far back as year 2011. Meanwhile, all these were happening at the time of the worst incursions and impunities, making it all an uncanny coincidence.   
 
 
However, in Nigeria, events of such dastardly proportions are easily glossed over and quickly forgotten, but we finally had recourse to an Arbitration process in order to encapsulate the issues in proper legal perspectives. It is disheartening that even while the Arbitration was ongoing and up till the Award was published in January this year, various levels of devastation were still being unleashed on the Zoo and its assets. For example, even after the Arbitrating ruling, a six block staff quarters meant to keep critical staffers resident in close proximity to the Zoo were bulldozed and the place is already shared to political figures who are hurrying to develop their own piece of the loot. A purpose-built lion enclosure in the middle of the encroached land was also bulldozed only last month (April) and the foundation of a mansion is coming up on the premises. The case of the Zoo staff quarters that have now been demolished is of particular interest since it was part of the specific provisions in the Arbitration Award requiring it to be dedicated for the use of the Zoo.
 
Coming from this brutal experience, we now have a new Governor who is most likely to take a decisive approach to save the Zoo from the grips of brigandage and anarchy. We are therefore anxious as to when specific Government interventions would commence to save the Zoo before all that needs to be saved are totally destroyed. 
 
 
To be compelled to resort to a costly Arbitration process as a last resort in demanding appropriate interventions to save the Zoo is perhaps a callous burden to be imposed on us along with a struggling zoo seeking a second lease of life. But then, there is a stranger element and a very sad feeling that some of those involved in perpetrating these atrocities on Ogba Zoo may have taken prominent roles and positions at the elaborate ceremonies to mark the exit of the revered Brig. Gen. S. O. Ogbemudia, while destroying his legacies even while he was alive.
 
 We do pray that the forces of light will prevail over those of darkness in this nascent and very promising Administration of Governor Obaseki.  
 
My role in the rescue and resuscitation of Ogba Zoo has evolved from just its management, to that of an activist, since the Zoo Association (NAZAP), of which I am National Secretary, is aimed at the pioneering mission of bringing sanity to all the Zoos and Parks across the whole Nigeria , for which we seek collaboration from all stakeholders. 
 
We can truly evolve a new society that our generation and posterity can be proud of in the spirit of the Change mantra. 
 
Thank you.    
 

 

INTERVIEW GRANTED BY MR ANDY OSA EHANIRE,  CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF OGBA ZOO AND NATURE PARK, BENIN CITY; ALSO AS NATIONAL SECRETARY OF THE NIGERIAN ASSOCIATION OF ZOOS AND PARKS (NAZAP): EXCERPTS ON THE CURRENT STATE OF THE ZOO AND THE SECTOR 


The Ogba Zoo, which we manage, was designed and developed in the early seventies by then military Administrator, Brig. General S. O. Ogbemudia, now of blessed memory. Its concept was an extensive biological garden, with potentials for resort development. In tandem with the ambitious and iconic scale of Ogbemudia’s drive and vision for then Midwest Region, later Bendel State, and now Edo / Delta States, Ogba Zoo was at par, or even surpassed most of its kind, both far and near. 


Soon after Ogbemudia’s regime, Ogba Zoo suffered a long era of decline and eventual collapse, spanning the late eighties and nineties.  By the time of our Private-Sector led intervention in the year 2000, the Zoo was already in the “mortuary” and was like ready to be written off the books. Such was a far cry from the laudable vision of its founder. Our mandate, therefore, was to reverse the rot or what was left of the decayed zoo, in order to revitalize its essential functions as an urban recreational park and field laboratory in the biological sciences where schools and colleges in the entire sub-region derived conservation education and awareness. 


 It must be understood that the decline and neglect of any zoo is always horrible, since without a proper winding-down procedure, the animals suffered neglect and deprivations akin to torture. It is instructive that the treatment of wildlife in any society can be likened to the barometer for measuring the level of its humanity; hence the circumstances of the collapse of Ogba Zoo, or any of such therefore, would amount to criminal neglect in humane or civilized societies. 


Nevertheless, Ogba Zoo experienced a painful rebirth through our rescue mission, which was purely self-financing, with no support from Government. On the contrary, it is the nature of the Lease Agreement that our private sector led eco-tourism outfit pays rents to Government. But as challenging as reviving a dormant zoo was, there were other hidden challenges that can hardly be imagined in a sane society. It started as a minor incursion by community land grabbers into the zoo land, until it was aided by official government instruments in the form of a gazette. Even with Government claiming, soon after, that it committed an error in issuing such gazette, the errant instrument has not been repealed for more than ten years running, but left to serve as a license for unlimited plunder of a foremost tourism heritage of the State. 

 


All these years of battling the encroachment on the Zoo, our private-sector led management was as good as left to solely tackle the growing menace unaided. With little or no response to dozens of memos crying for speedy deployment of Government machinery to dislodge and prosecute offenders, the area encroached upon grew from about 10% of the zoo land that was purportedly ceded by the gazette, to more than 60% of the entire  Zoo. It was like a horror movie to see bulldozers levelling priceless forestry in this pristine Conservation heritage that had been a classic urban forest rarely found anywhere in the world. It is a sad commentary that these last three years (2014 to 2016) have seen the greatest devastation of the zoo, even when the then Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, would be making pronouncements as to immediate Government intervention. While not tolerating any nonsense in other areas, all the administrative machineries of his Government were appearing helpless in the face of the onslaught on Ogba Zoo.

 

 

It eventually dawned on me that I had been encircled by a mammoth conspiracy and therefore published a series of open letters to the Comrade Governor calling for an administrative or judicial inquiry, but all to no avail. It also became evident that a cabal was bent on sharing most of the zoo land without any official Government process but the diabolical ploy of using community youths and thugs as alibi. 

 


The sum effect was to create widespread but dangerous impression in the area that Government had acquiesced to sharing the zoo land, but that we were the only ones standing in the way. It was also painfully obvious that the security situation had long degenerated, with threats and suspicions of ecological terrorism becoming a constant nightmare, yet our pleas for police protection went unheeded. It was rather intended to intimidate than merely to inform, when some Government officials hurried to say that an infamous Government political appointee and other cultists were amongst those carrying on with illegal development on the Zoo. Fingers also pointed at House of Assembly Committee members, who were assigned to look into the issues, but spent over three years purporting to be engaging community agents without any new position on the matter, after an initial one had declared that the encroachment was illegal and unacceptable, as far back as year 2011. Meanwhile, all these were happening at the time of the worst incursions and impunities, making it all an uncanny coincidence.   

 

 

However, in Nigeria, events of such dastardly proportions are easily glossed over and quickly forgotten, but we finally had recourse to an Arbitration process in order to encapsulate the issues in proper legal perspectives. It is disheartening that even while the Arbitration was ongoing and up till the Award was published in January this year, various levels of devastation were still being unleashed on the Zoo and its assets. For example, even after the Arbitrating ruling, a six block staff quarters meant to keep critical staffers resident in close proximity to the Zoo were bulldozed and the place is already shared to political figures who are hurrying to develop their own piece of the loot. A purpose-built lion enclosure in the middle of the encroached land was also bulldozed only last month (April) and the foundation of a mansion is coming up on the premises. The case of the Zoo staff quarters that have now been demolished is of particular interest since it was part of the specific provisions in the Arbitration Award requiring it to be dedicated for the use of the Zoo.

 

Coming from this brutal experience, we now have a new Governor who is most likely to take a decisive approach to save the Zoo from the grips of brigandage and anarchy. We are therefore anxious as to when specific Government interventions would commence to save the Zoo before all that needs to be saved are totally destroyed. 

 


To be compelled to resort to a costly Arbitration process as a last resort in demanding appropriate interventions to save the Zoo is perhaps a callous burden to be imposed on us along with a struggling zoo seeking a second lease of life. But then, there is a stranger element and a very sad feeling that some of those involved in perpetrating these atrocities on Ogba Zoo may have taken prominent roles and positions at the elaborate ceremonies to mark the exit of the revered Brig. Gen. S. O. Ogbemudia, while destroying his legacies even while he was alive.

 

 We do pray that the forces of light will prevail over those of darkness in this nascent and very promising Administration of Governor Obaseki.  

 

My role in the rescue and resuscitation of Ogba Zoo has evolved from just its management, to that of an activist, since the Zoo Association (NAZAP), of which I am National Secretary, is aimed at the pioneering mission of bringing sanity to all the Zoos and Parks across the whole Nigeria , for which we seek collaboration from all stakeholders.

 

We can truly evolve a new society that our generation and posterity can be proud of in the spirit of the Change mantra.

 

Thank you.    

 

The Ogba Zoo was inaugurated in 1971 under the Administration of Brig, Gen Osaigbovo Ogbemudia, to serve as a field laboratory in the biological sciences, along with pilot schemes in sustainable development, recreation and tourism. It was carved out of the Ogba Forest Reserve where a Botanical Garden and Arboretum had existed; with the zoo being an expansion of its scope into a Biological Garden. It had thrived as a State heritage under Government before its management was transferred via a leasehold franchise to Everal Services Limited, an ecotourism outfit, under Public-Private Sector Partnership (PPP). Its boundaries, consisting of an estimated 320 hectares, are covered by a forestry survey map and master plan drawn to international specifications.
2. It was during a series of de-reservation exercises of outlying forest reserves that an encroachment occurred on the zoo in the year 2004 and all de-reservation actions in the area were immediately suspended. Illegal structures were soon observed on the zoo land and they were promptly marked for demolition, while the Committee on Protection of Government Property was deployed to evict the illegal developers. Curiously, it was long after the transition of Government in 2007 that a gazette surfaced granting Utagban Community some 29 hectares of land in the Reserve, out of which about 17 hectares encroached on the Ogba Zoo land. This anomaly was questioned by the Ministry of Environment, which superintends both the Forest Reserves and Government’s interest in the Zoo. Their observation was not only on account of there being no official process in its records that gave any effect to such a gazette, but that the land was clearly in the vicinity of a known lion enclosure within the perimeters of the zoo.
3. The Community in question was summoned and ordered to suspend any development on the zoo land, which they flouted in desperation to sell off the land to unsuspecting buyers. After several preliminary enquiries on the veracity of this gazette that was procured by Utagban Community, the Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, constituted an inter-Ministerial Committee in 2010 headed by then Surveyor General of Edo State, to look into the issue. Following series of hearings by this Committee, in which all stakeholders were represented, it was its final decision that the gazette in question cannot take effect and that the encroachment on Ogba Zoo land should be dislodged. Based on the findings of this Committee, which was approved by Government, a formal process of demolition survey and its subsequent approval, led to the demolition of all the illegal structures on the Zoo land in 2011. 
4. The Community then took matters to the State House of Assembly, holding on to the so-called Gazette, which Government had repudiated. Within a few weeks, the Committee on Lands in the State House of Assembly held several sessions and took evidence from all parties, before arriving at its conclusions in a 20 page document, which were in accord with Government’s actions on the matter. However, the then Speaker, Hon. Uyi Igbe, promised to help seek succour for the Community by exploring a recommendation that an alternative 17 Hectares of land be sought for them by Government, if available elsewhere. Since 2011 till date, the House has not come up with any further resolution on this matter.
UNLEASHING OF UNRESTRAINED CRIMINAL ATROCITIES
5. It was only 17 hectares of land at the north end of the zoo that Utagban Community sought to claim from the zoo land with a gazette that is now redundant. It should be noted that de-reservation exercise is used strictly for free areas in a forest Reserve, not over sections that have been assigned for overriding public interest as in a nature park like Ogba Zoo. As the zoo was no longer in the free areas of the Reserve, it is thus a fallacy for a gazette to purport to cede any part thereof for private or community development.
 6. In spite of Government’s demolition of the illegal structures and while matters were still pending before the House of Assembly, the community agents went back to continue further development and sale of the land. However, it was in June of last year (2015) that bulldozers invaded most of the remaining sections of the zoo land amounting to more than 200 hectares, thereby destroying vast sections of its pristine forestry of high international scientific significance. This onslaught with bulldozers was orchestrated by FridayOdigie of Utagban CDA in collaboration with Victor Iredia of Ogbaneki community. 
7. The State Executive Council responded with stern resolve to deal with this latest wave of encroachment and requested the then Commissioner of Police (Mr. Adegbuyi) to provide security escorts for the delineation of the zoo land, while entries were made for the prosecution of the offenders. It is scandalous that on two separate occasions where elaborate attempts were made by Government officials to carry out this delineation with police escorts provided by then Commissioner of Police, they were chased away by community agents without any consequence. It is disheartening that  the police authorities have made no further attempts or found any way of fulfilling this critical assignment ever since, which is both confounding and a huge embarrassment to Government.
8. In spite of all evidence of breaches of the State Forestry Laws and the identification of the known culprits from Utagban and Ogbaneki Communities, no progress has been recorded by way of preventive custody and prosecution of the offenders. Rather, the possession of this redundant gazette, which purports to convey only 17 hectares of land, has become a license for criminal take-over of more than 200 hectares of Ogba zoo land. Moreover, in a matter of controversy over land consisting of a prime forestry heritage owned by Government, whereby its destruction is not only criminal, but would clearly wreak irreversible havoc, it was expected that the police  authorities would speedily restrain parties to such violation until matters are resolved; but in this case, the police authorities appear to have condoned these devastating illegalities by treating it as a civil matter under the Conflict Resolution Unit of the Command.
9. We have severally called the attention of the police authorities to the antics of the community agents in selling the zoo land to unsuspecting members of the public, who are being encouraged to develop same, thus creating fresh complications and jeopardy. Letters were at various times despatched by the Commissioner for Environment (and the Zoo Management) to the Commissioner of Police, requesting the arrest of the situation, but so far, and in the last nine months, there is yet to be an effective intervention in a complementary role to avowed Government’s interest. All these were in spite of regular Government public announcements warning citizens of the encroachment activities by Utagban and Ogbaneki communities and the risks of demolition of the illegal structures therein, as well as the prosecution of offenders.
 10. In the matter of Gazettes, which is only a newsletter, we are of the opinion that it is the business of Government to give effect to such. Whereby such is renounced through an elaborate administrative process as carried out by Government in this case, it can only be the handiwork of fraudsters to still carry such a document as license to perpetrate land grabs. At any stage in the life of any gazette, it is Government itself that should be approached to throw light on any controversies therein. In this particular case, the representations made so far by Government should leave no one in any doubt as to its position on these matters.
11. It is therefore ironic that in the recent interview of parties to this matter by the Commissioner of Police, Utagban community representatives were still clinging to the authority of the redundant gazette and claiming not to have stepped any further than the 17 hectares provided therein. So also did Ogbaneki Community claim complete innocence in this matter, by deposing that they did not step into the Zoo land. The obvious puzzle, therefore, that required immediate answers, but which question was not asked, was to find out those responsible for the ongoing pillaging of the zoo land that has been under investigation by the police for close to one year.  Unmasking those behind the criminal bulldozing of over 200 hectares of the zoo’s forestry by those who have been openly trading the land to developers should never have remained a puzzle by any chance under the prolonged period of police investigations by its various departments. So far, we are not aware of any police operation to apprehend suspects at the crime scene, whereas there are constant activities of land sales and development therein.
12. May we also notify the police authorities that an Arbitration clause in the extant lease Agreement between the Zoo Management and the State Government has been invoked as a result of this encroachment saga. The purpose is seeking to compel Government and its apparatus to carry out its statutory role in respect of ensuring the sanctity of the zoo land. We must also point out that being tenants, we are not in a position to carry out full proof of Government ownership of the zoo land as demanded by the police, since we are not a direct party to the land title. Considering the level of hostility associated with land matters in this clime, which is also being directed at the Zoo Management, it is our sincere appeal that we should be shielded from any perception of being the main complainant in the case. Rather, we can be adjudged witnesses or informants, since we are more exposed to the risks of the community’s restiveness.
13. In conclusion Sir, the manner of the police investigations, so far, lack any discernible direction, as all suspects arrested at the initial stage of the investigations were released without prosecution. The suspects were neither cautioned nor prevented from causing further havoc to the assets in question. There has been no element of deterrence by way of  preventive custody or criminal prosecution of the offenders, but rather, we continue to  be invited to various interviews along with the erring parties to the case, which apparently, serves more to dignify the known villains. Also, the level of evidence already taken by the police in this matter, over time, do not require any fresh investigations or cross-examinations, except in the law court. It is expected that only a firm and decisive action by the police would help to send the right signals to all such pervasive criminal land grabs that are fast becoming the norm in Edo State. Ogba zoo, being a heritage of the State, deserves adequate security protection from the police, rather than the lawless zone it has been consigned to. We are still awaiting a concrete line of official police response to the criminal encroachment on the zoo land. Thank you.
AO. EHANIRE
Director / CE                                                                                                              17 March 22, 2016
COPY:
  1. Hon Commissioner for Environment
  2. Hon. Attorney General of Edo State.

ANOTHER OPEN LETTER TO THE COMRADE GOVERNOR

Friday, 05 February 2016 16:39
His Excellency the Comrade Governor.
Edo State Government,
Benin City
Your Excellency,
FURTHER HORRIFIC DESTRUCTION OF OGBA ZOO INFRASTRUCTURE / NATURE PARK: ANOTHER OPEN LETTER TO THE COMRADE GOVERNOR 
Following series of incursions and destruction of the Ogba Zoo forestry assets and infrastructure by Community land grabbers from Utagban and Ogbaneki, we had cause to cry out to your exalted Office, via an open letter. In your decisive manner, the State Executive Council came up with official pronouncements in the media, expressing Government’s determination to deal with the issues, which include dislodging all manner of encroachments and the delineation and survey of the Zoo land.
2. However, after nearly six months with none of the actions promised being carried out by Government, the paucity of action appears to have invited another round of the most horrific destruction of any Zoo in the country. The latest incursions began by unleashing of arson, in which the errant land grabbers set fire across different sections of the Zoo that destroyed over 70 % of the assets, followed by further use of bulldozers as we speak.  
3. In view of the extant mantra of “finishing well”, the Ogba Zoo Management is inclined to engaging the above critical issues that would add to the immense legacies of the Comrade Adams Aliu Oshiomhole Administration. This is particularly relevant since the Zoo is the foremost tourism facility in the State and also remains the only major Private-Sector led pioneering venture in eco-tourism in the country, under PPP.
4. With the Ogba zoo already a proven case-study in sustainability – operating without any financial burden on Government, the imminent harsh economic conditions that have befallen the country are adjudged a major threat to the survival of Zoos, especially if the above issues hindering the development of Ogba Zoo are not timeously addressed.
5. Your Excellency Sir, alb initio, it was the expectation that these issues being sufficiently grave, would warrant a Panel of Enquiry being set up by Government to unravel the seemingly intractable nature of this encroachment saga. So far, some of the culprits arrested at the many illegal construction sites on the zoo land, alleged representing House of Assembly members and other Government officials who they claim are beneficiaries of a purported sharing of the Zoo land.
6. So far, all those arrested in connection with these destructive incursions and illegal land development were mysteriously set free without prosecution, to continue their dastardly acts. This is to the extent that the expansive purpose-built lion enclosure across the river was not only destroyed, but now surrounded with illegal building sites. In fact, the audacity and antics of the land grabbers, as well as the persisting waves of encroachment, including the levels of their facilitation with official documents, are indicative of deep conspiracies and treachery by those who do not care if Edo State is buried in shame.
7. As at today, a security escort vehicle belonging to the State House of Assembly with plain clothes men was sighted giving protection to the operations of the bulldozer working on the Zoo land. We have long been carrying the discomfort of appearing to be crying more than the bereaved, which has attracted all manner of threats to our persons and investments, being tenants to the State Government in respect of the Zoo.    
7. In conclusion Sir, we are confident of your forthright and incisive approach to issues and thus remain hopeful of your enforcing the extant State EXCO resolutions  in this regard expeditiously.
While thanking you most sincerely in anticipation of your quick response, please remain assured of our highest esteem.
 
Andy O. Ehanire
DIRECTOR / CE
Copy:
INTERNAL ACTION
1. Hon. Commissioner for Environment & Utilities.
2. Hon Commissioner for Lands and Survey.
3. Hon. Attorney General & Commissioner for Justice.
5. Secretary to the State Government.
EXTERNAL ACTION
 Commissioner of Police, Edo State Command.  
EXTERNAL INFORMATION
1. Hon. Speaker, Edo State House of Assembly.
2. Gentlemen of the Press.

ANOTHER OPEN LETTER TO THE COMRADE GOVERNOR

Friday, 05 February 2016 16:37
His Excellency the Comrade Governor.
Edo State Government,
Benin City
Your Excellency,
FURTHER HORRIFIC DESTRUCTION OF OGBA ZOO INFRASTRUCTURE / NATURE PARK: ANOTHER OPEN LETTER TO THE COMRADE GOVERNOR 
Following series of incursions and destruction of the Ogba Zoo forestry assets and infrastructure by Community land grabbers from Utagban and Ogbaneki, we had cause to cry out to your exalted Office, via an open letter. In your decisive manner, the State Executive Council came up with official pronouncements in the media, expressing Government’s determination to deal with the issues, which include dislodging all manner of encroachments and the delineation and survey of the Zoo land.
2. However, after nearly six months with none of the actions promised being carried out by Government, the paucity of action appears to have invited another round of the most horrific destruction of any Zoo in the country. The latest incursions began by unleashing of arson, in which the errant land grabbers set fire across different sections of the Zoo that destroyed over 70 % of the assets, followed by further use of bulldozers as we speak.  
3. In view of the extant mantra of “finishing well”, the Ogba Zoo Management is inclined to engaging the above critical issues that would add to the immense legacies of the Comrade Adams Aliu Oshiomhole Administration. This is particularly relevant since the Zoo is the foremost tourism facility in the State and also remains the only major Private-Sector led pioneering venture in eco-tourism in the country, under PPP.
4. With the Ogba zoo already a proven case-study in sustainability – operating without any financial burden on Government, the imminent harsh economic conditions that have befallen the country are adjudged a major threat to the survival of Zoos, especially if the above issues hindering the development of Ogba Zoo are not timeously addressed.
5. Your Excellency Sir, alb initio, it was the expectation that these issues being sufficiently grave, would warrant a Panel of Enquiry being set up by Government to unravel the seemingly intractable nature of this encroachment saga. So far, some of the culprits arrested at the many illegal construction sites on the zoo land, alleged representing House of Assembly members and other Government officials who they claim are beneficiaries of a purported sharing of the Zoo land.
6. So far, all those arrested in connection with these destructive incursions and illegal land development were mysteriously set free without prosecution, to continue their dastardly acts. This is to the extent that the expansive purpose-built lion enclosure across the river was not only destroyed, but now surrounded with illegal building sites. In fact, the audacity and antics of the land grabbers, as well as the persisting waves of encroachment, including the levels of their facilitation with official documents, are indicative of deep conspiracies and treachery by those who do not care if Edo State is buried in shame.
7. As at today, a security escort vehicle belonging to the State House of Assembly with plain clothes men was sighted giving protection to the operations of the bulldozer working on the Zoo land. We have long been carrying the discomfort of appearing to be crying more than the bereaved, which has attracted all manner of threats to our persons and investments, being tenants to the State Government in respect of the Zoo.    
7. In conclusion Sir, we are confident of your forthright and incisive approach to issues and thus remain hopeful of your enforcing the extant State EXCO resolutions  in this regard expeditiously.
While thanking you most sincerely in anticipation of your quick response, please remain assured of our highest esteem.
 
Andy O. Ehanire
DIRECTOR / CE
Copy:
INTERNAL ACTION
1. Hon. Commissioner for Environment & Utilities.
2. Hon Commissioner for Lands and Survey.
3. Hon. Attorney General & Commissioner for Justice.
5. Secretary to the State Government.
EXTERNAL ACTION
 Commissioner of Police, Edo State Command.  
EXTERNAL INFORMATION
1. Hon. Speaker, Edo State House of Assembly.
2. Gentlemen of the Press.

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE COMRADE GOVERNOR OSHIOMOLE

MASSIVE INCURSION INTO OGBA ZOO BY LAND GRABBERS:

DARK EPOCH FOR CONSERVATION AND TOURISM IN EDO STATE

On Thursday June 18, 2015, there was massive incursion into Ogba Zoo by land grabbers from Utagban and Ogbaneki neighbouring Communities. Large tracts of this pristine conservation project of the State, with high international acclaim, were decimated with the use of bulldozers. The zoo land was promptly put up for sale to unsuspecting members of the public, with fresh survey beacons dotting the landscape.

2. The supervising Ministry of Environment was immediately informed of this development and a team was sent for verification. A police patrol team was mobilized and arrests were made. The matter is now under police investigation at the Airport Police Division. However, there is apparent logistical challenges in impounding exhibits such as a bulldozer and other implements of this manifest ecological terrorism, along with all the perpetrators of these illegalities.

3. In the current circumstance, we want to again appeal for Government protection of this priceless Zoo forestry, which is the very last vestige of the once 53 Sq. Km.Ogba Forest Reserve. It is also pertinent to state, herewith, that the Zoo Management is operating under constant threats from these land grabbers and cannot, therefore, adequately discharge its mandate, with devastating effects on the Zoo’s business and international corporate standing. The massive investment on the Zoo’s infrastructure by the State Government could become a colossal waste if this encroachment problem persists.

4. Considering that the Comrade Governor had decisively dislodged these encroachment tendencies a few years back, the current massive incursion clearly signifies that the matter was not conclusively addressed, thus making this second foray by the land grabbers an audacious affront on the conservation and tourism legacies of your Administration. It is instructive that this Administration carried out extensive investigations on the previous encroachment in the year 2010, including setting up an Inter-Ministerial Committee on the matter, headed by the Surveyor General of Edo State, which followed due process, before demolition of the illegal structures was carried out.

5. However, following the demolition of the earlier illegal structures encroaching on the Zoo, the aggrieved community petitioned the House of Assembly, and for more than three years running, it has been a series of rigmarole by the House without any concrete pronouncement on the matter. Under this confusing distraction, the community was not only sufficiently emboldened as to rebuilding the demolished structures, but has now gone further to perpetrate the worst incursion on the greater part of the zoo, thereby making a mockery of Government.    

6. Some of the immediate concurrent steps required to seriously address these grievous challenges, includes the following recommendations.

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE COMRADE GOVERNOR OSHIOMOLE

 

MASSIVE INCURSION INTO OGBA ZOO BY LAND GRABBERS:

DARK EPOCH FOR CONSERVATION AND TOURISM IN EDO STATE

On Thursday June 18, 2015, there was massive incursion into Ogba Zoo by land grabbers from Utagban and Ogbaneki neighbouring Communities. Large tracts of this pristine conservation project of the State, with high international acclaim, were decimated with the use of bulldozers. The zoo land was promptly put up for sale to unsuspecting members of the public, with fresh survey beacons dotting the landscape.

2. The supervising Ministry of Environment was immediately informed of this development and a team was sent for verification. A police patrol team was mobilized and arrests were made. The matter is now under police investigation at the Airport Police Division. However, there is apparent logistical challenges in impounding exhibits such as a bulldozer and other implements of this manifest ecological terrorism, along with all the perpetrators of these illegalities.

3. In the current circumstance, we want to again appeal for Government protection of this priceless Zoo forestry, which is the very last vestige of the once 53 Sq. Km.Ogba Forest Reserve. It is also pertinent to state, herewith, that the Zoo Management is operating under constant threats from these land grabbers and cannot, therefore, adequately discharge its mandate, with devastating effects on the Zoo’s business and international corporate standing. The massive investment on the Zoo’s infrastructure by the State Government could become a colossal waste if this encroachment problem persists.

4. Considering that the Comrade Governor had decisively dislodged these encroachment tendencies a few years back, the current massive incursion clearly signifies that the matter was not conclusively addressed, thus making this second foray by the land grabbers an audacious affront on the conservation and tourism legacies of your Administration. It is instructive that this Administration carried out extensive investigations on the previous encroachment in the year 2010, including setting up an Inter-Ministerial Committee on the matter, headed by the Surveyor General of Edo State, which followed due process, before demolition of the illegal structures was carried out.

5. However, following the demolition of the earlier illegal structures encroaching on the Zoo, the aggrieved community petitioned the House of Assembly, and for more than three years running, it has been a series of rigmarole by the House without any concrete pronouncement on the matter. Under this confusing distraction, the community was not only sufficiently emboldened as to rebuilding the demolished structures, but has now gone further to perpetrate the worst incursion on the greater part of the zoo, thereby making a mockery of Government.    

6. Some of the immediate concurrent steps required to seriously address these grievous challenges, includes the following recommendations.

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)

 

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