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Osun…Transforming Ageing Cities, Schools To Prevent Disasters

September 9, 2012

Osun…Transforming Ageing Cities, Schools To Prevent Disasters

Sunday, 09 September 2012 00:00 By Tunde Akingbade Sunday Magazine CityFile
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FORMER Commissioner for Environment in Lagos State, Dr. Muiz Banire, at a function in Osogbo, Osun State last year, wondered why Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, former Works Commissioner in Lagos opted for the office of the governor of Osun that does not control the kind of funding that his former office had in Lagos.

Aregbesola kept his objective to his chest at the time and did not make any disclosure on his mission, but his actions and activities at transforming Osun State cities as model for Africa through creation of innovative facilities and investment in infrastructures, have begun to unfold.

Sustainable cities, which will wear a new look far from its current derelict and ancient outlook, are being planned for the state. This, The Guardian gathered in Osogbo, is in the offing, as Aregbesola had repeatedly expressed his discontent with the state of squalor of some of the towns in the state for over three decades.

The cities to be transformed  through experts along the line and principle of sustainable development, are: Osogbo, Ile-Ife, Iwo, Ila-Orangun, Ikirun, Ikire, Ede and Ilesa. It was gathered that dilapidated houses would be demolished while the owners, who have been living with the risks of imminent collapse, would be allocated into low-cost houses being planned for the cities.

The state government recently carried out enumeration of dilapidated houses and found that there are 48,797 of such, posing a major disaster threat to citizens. More shocking was the discovery that 187,287 people were residing in the marked structures.

SOME of the towns and cities in Osun are over a thousand years old and it was gathered that the government was concerned they still wear old looks, which does not encourage the tourism potentials of the state. A source of concern to the present administration is the steep level of poverty among the people, which adversely affect the quest for modernisation of infrastructures in the cities.

The buildings are made of mud in some places while the roofs are rusty. Even some of the tourism potentials in places such as Ile-Ife, Ede, Ilesa, and the state capital look old and unattractive.

In a first step to reverse this trend, the state has gone into collaboration with the UN Habitat to build its cities and towns that are falling apart.

Experts told The Guardian that innovative and healthy buildings are being planned to replace dilapidated ones, which have posed threat of a looming disaster in government circles. But government sources insist that the state is poised to key into principles of disaster risk reduction as enunciated by the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) through the approval and construction of buildings, which will improve the infrastructural landscape of the people as well as prevent tragedy.

The state government needs over N1 billion to demolish the houses and make alternative provision for affected persons. Already, it has signed an agreement with Dr. Alioune Badiane, head of the UN Habitat team.

IN the educational sector, the state governor has also raised concerns about the awful state of infrastructure in primary and secondary schools. The state has put in place a strategic plan to uplift the standard of education and quality of infrastructure, which is estimated to cost N30 billion.

Aregbesola, unhappy about the degeneration of school buildings in the state, is determined to build modern and state-of-the art schools, where learning will be conducive like in other parts of the advanced world.

It was gathered that the governor had reached out to international experts and their counterparts at home to drive his policy of building new cities from the ancient ones dotting the state’s landscape.

Twenty new secondary schools are to be constructed over a period of 18 months while 100 elementary schools have been proposed. The 20-school structure is described as “a community of schools.” Each class will accommodate a maximum of 40 students for effective learning. The school will be well equipped with computer science laboratory, and two libraries for arts and sciences.

In order to ensure continued maintenance and development of the infrastructure, schools will have officers to be referred to as School Managers. These officers are expected to help in maintaining the standard and aesthetics of the schools.

AT the inauguration of the 10-man School Infrastructure Development Committee recently, the governor reiterated his commitment to the development of the state, adding that this is the bond he had with the people. According to him, he was worried that the school buildings put in place by Chief Obafemi Awolowo, First Premier of Western Region, between 1952 and1957, were still in place in many villages and towns without renovation.

Aregbesola said the intention of his administration is not to rehabilitate but to rebuild the schools because of the terrible state he met the structures on the assumption of office.

The committee, headed by Chief Lai Oyeduntan, according to the governor, will be the largest spender in his administration for the next two years. Each of the 20 high schools will be built at a cost between N400 and N500 million. There will be 50 middle schools and each will cost N150 million.

The governor noted that his driving force was the urgent need to tackle the serious danger and threat posed by the environmental and infrastructural decay. Aregbesola, who recently bagged the award of excellence for his administration’s strides in environmental sanitation and sustainable development by African Roundtable Conference on Sustainable Consumption and Production, regretted that the level of poverty in the country has made Nigerians unduly exposed to environmental disasters, which his administration is determined to prevent.

In the cities that are being planned, the government will ensure that tree planting will be carried out across the state. Already, schools aforestation programme has been introduced in secondary schools.

Mrs. Oluremi Adiukwu-Bakare, managing director of UNISPACE Ltd, an organisation working to stop deforestation and land degradation, said Osun is ripe to tap from the various United Nations initiatives on forests, in order to get carbon credit. The state is also showing keen interest in the protection of its forests and planting of trees in its new urban renewal initiative, which is to give the nine cities, primary and secondary schools a new look.

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Author of this article: By Tunde Akingbade

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