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19.01.2024 Climate Thugs ‘Sent by Oyo Gov’t’ Assault Protesters Fighting Destruction of Agodi Forest for Estate Construction

Published 19th Jan, 2024

By Olayide Soaga

On December 19, 2023, what would have been a peaceful protest for members of the Save Our Green Spaces Movement turned out to be physical assaults and harassment by thugs allegedly sent by the Oyo State Government.

It was on this day that Olatoye Abidemi (not real name), a member of Save Our Green Spaces Movement, and other members of the movement who frown against the conversion of Agodi Forest into a residential estate embarked on a peaceful protest to express their grievances.

READ ALSO: Nigeria Ranked 14th Among Climate Change-Resilient African Countries

Situated around Mokola and the Oyo State Government Secretariat, Agodi Forest sits on 60 hectares of land, from which eight hectares has been allocated for a garden – Agodi Gardens. According to Olatoye, Agodi Forest is the largest green space in Ibadan.

Photocredit: Oyo Insight

Green spaces such as Agodi Forest have trees that help trap carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that significantly contributes to climate change. Climate change has devastating effects on the environment, and flooding is one of them. The occurrence of floods is not strange to some communities in Ibadan, and Olatoye is worried that the next rainy season in Ibadan will cause floods and mudslides if all the trees in the forest are felled.

Over the years, climate and environmental advocates have advised against deforestation and urged people to plant more trees instead to mitigate the devastating effects of climate change on the environment. However, the Oyo State Government is acting contrary to this by converting Agodi Forests into an estate.

According to Seyi Makinde, the Governor of Oyo State, this move was taken in the “best interest of the people”. People like Olatoye and other members of the Save Our Green Spaces Movement argue that the government is not doing this in the interest of the people as the governor claimed.

“Contrary to what the government said about trying to solve the housing deficit in Ibadan, this place will be sold to elites. The calamity that will ensue due to the felling of these trees will be felt when the rainy season comes,” she said.

On the day of the protest, Wuraola and other members of the movement marched from Agodi Gardens to the governor’s office. While they were there, they were bullied and warned to leave the premises, but this did not discourage them. They then proceeded to the state house of assembly. After staying at the state’s house of assembly for over an hour without being attended to, they went to the ministry of land. Still, no one attended to them.

READ ALSO: Food Scarcity Looms as Climate Change Deals with Nigerian Farmers

Discouraged by this, they marched back to Agodi Gardens, where they got a tip that some people were coming to attack them. This was when they decided to call it a day, but when they got to where they parked their cars, they discovered some had been towed away.

“This was shocking because we didn’t flout any traffic regulations and we didn’t constitute nuisance. Our cars were packed away from the road,” Olatoye told FIJ. They got into their remaining cars and drove to the Oyo State Traffic Management Authority to ask why their cars had been towed. On arriving there, they were informed that the people who towed their cars had gone. They stayed around the premises, waiting for answers. Some minutes later, thugs appeared and threatened them to leave the premises, but they stood their ground.

“One of the thugs told me to keep quiet and that he would stab me in the face. I told him I had as much right to be there as he did, and I asked why I should leave when I had a complaint and no one had attended to me yet,” Olatoye told FIJ.

The thug told her they should count themselves lucky because if they had met them in Agodi Forest, they would have killed them.  The thugs deflated their car tyres and began beating up people. Olatoye and other members of the movement are convinced the thugs were sent by the state government since they were harassed on the premises of the office of a government agency without anyone raising the alarm.

“The owners of the towed cars did not get access to their cars until about two weeks after the incident,” said Olatoye. A month after the protest, Olatoye is still receiving threats from people she believes are following orders from the state government.

FIJ contacted the Oyo State Government via the phone number on their website to get a comment, but all efforts proved abortive as they did not respond to calls or reply to the messages sent.

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Published 19th Jan, 2024

By Olayide Soaga

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