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Experts seek more green spaces in Nigerian cities

Stakeholders have called for the expansion of green areas in urban centres to promote ecosystem balance and healthy living. The call was made during a…

Stakeholders have called for the expansion of green areas in urban centres to promote ecosystem balance and healthy living.

The call was made during a conference organised by the French Embassy in Lagos, Nigeria and IFRA Nigeria, titled, “Green or Grey Urban Jungles: What Place for Plants in Nigerian Cities?”

Speakers at the event highlighted the encroachment of concrete on natural spaces, stressing the ecological and social benefits of green areas.

They warned that the disappearance of parks and gardens could exacerbate environmental issues, such as excessive heat and disrupt community spaces for rest and worship.

The conference featured a panel discussion with notable participants, including Emilie Guitard, an anthropologist and research fellow at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS); Theo Lawson, an architect and chief warden of Freedom Park; Iyabo Aboaba, chief operating officer of Freedom Park, among others.

He emphasized the park’s role as a spiritual refuge and necessary counterbalance to urban development, saying, “This park was built on three legs – a green area, memorial park and art space. We believe that this place is very spiritual, and spirits of the park enjoy what we do and give their blessings if they like you. This place is also a place of refuge for many people that want to disconnect from the outside world and just relax in nature. We must put nature first.”

Guitard shared insights from her research in Ibadan, highlighting the multifunctional role of trees in African cultures as sources of medicine, land markers and spiritual sites.

“In Ibadan, where I currently do research, trees in the forests and gardens serve as medicine (agbo), as land markers indicate seniority of some lineage. They serve as memory preservers, prayer grounds and shrines for some people, and a place of rest and relaxation for others. I find it disheartening that some people come to indiscriminately cut down some of the trees dedicated to some gods,” Guitard said.

Oyefeso attributed Nigeria’s increasing heat and flooding issues to environmental degradation, criticising the conversion of protected areas like Agodi Gardens in Ibadan into residential estates.

“The heat and flooding being experienced in Nigeria today is not natural; it is a result of abusing the environment. It is a recipe for disaster,” Oyefeso said.

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