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ABU@50….Forest In The Savannah

November 4, 2012

ABU@50….Forest In The Savannah

Sunday, 04 November 2012 00:00 By Tunde Akingbade (who was in Zaria) Sunday Magazine Kaleidoscope
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FIFTY years ago, Sir. Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto and first Premier of Northern Nigeria was at the newly established Ahmadu Bello University, (ABU) Zaria. While on the university soil in Zaria, he planted a tree at an impressive ceremony, which showcased him as a lover of nature and a tree planter.

Recently, 50 years after, those who observers describe as his children and grandchildren in society and academic circle remembered him in a symbolic ceremony on the same campus. They all planted trees to re-enact what the Sardauna did to mark 50th anniversary of the University.

There were representatives of Emirs from Zaria and Katsina. Commissioners of Environment from Kaduna and Katsina states also came. They all planted trees. The Vice Chancellor, Professor Shehu Usman Abdullahi was the chief host.

The ceremony evoked the sweet memory of Sir. Ahmadu Bello, who was the first Chancellor of the university. At the time he planted trees, he apparently did not think that the challenge of climate change confronting the global community today will stare the world in the face.

But he had a vision, mission, focus and belief that trees in the environment and most importantly on ABU campus would improve the environment, aesthetics, human health as well as quality of life.

Experts told The Guardian in Zaria that the different species of trees planted in ABU over the years have given the university a weather and climate pattern that is different from other towns in the region. The weather on the campus could be like some southern parts of Nigeria in the northern Sahel region.

The VC said, at the ceremony, that the rapid extinction of indigenous plants due to climate change and increasing human activities and accelerated by lack of tree planting culture calls for urgent need for partnership aimed at mitigating the negative impact of environmental and ecological challenges in a modern world.

Abdullahi said that most of the valuable indigenous plants and biodiversity we used to know as children have almost become extinct. The University may be losing its water reservoir (the ABU Dam) to silting due to massive erosion arising from deforestation and degradation of its catchment area.

“Ahmadu Bello University has planted and successfully nurtured more than 150,000 different species of tree seedlings and employed 2,000 workers from neighboring communities including forest guards,” he noted.

It was gathered that the University pays approximately N24 million monthly to maintain the environment and to nurture the forest.

“The university is working on improving Jatropha yields and utilisation for alternative energy and has a linkage with University of Silesia in Poland on geothermal energy,” said the vice chancellor. He noted that the university has also established a gene bank for indigenous endangered species.


IN an address, Professor Mohammed Balarabe of Biological Sciences Department and one of the key Nigerian negotiators at United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, (UNFCCC) said that the green belt initiative of the university was aimed at combating land-degradation, protection and conservation of critical catchment of Kubanni ecosystem.

Balarabe said that the initiative was designed to focus on afforestation and reforestation of ABU environment as well as to re-engineer community action towards the expansion of the ABU greenbelt, protection of Kubanni dam catchment and sustain the university environment in general.

He added that in the last two decades, the University, through its environmental committees embarked on the following:-

· demarcation of the entire University boundary

· mapping the entire University boundary

· Management of  Kubanni Dam Watershed under which, massive afforestation of degraded lands, creation of functional parks and garden unit, erosion control measures with planting and Ipomoea carnea fistulosa / gully killer/ Kashe Kwari, permanent protection of the plants (Orchards, mango, cashew, date palm, oranges, moringa) etc.

Balarabe said that the university afforestation programme also focuses on preserving indigenous plant species, reducing the impact of desert encroachment and addressing the issue of climate change through adopting the concept of Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) as an integral component of a viable mitigation and adaptation option. These among others, include protection, conservation of natural forests, ecosystem services and biological diversity.

The Guardian gathered that the impressive rainforest type of vegetation was the idea of Professor Abdullahi Mahadi, a former Vice-Chancellor of the university.

Mahadi, current Vice Chancellor, Gombe State University had set up the Mahadi Foundation, which has continued to fund ecological and afforestation projects in Zaria through collaboration with members of the Ahmadu Bello University Environment Committee headed by Dr. Salihu Musa, Director, University Health Services, ABU. There are other members including; Sule Abdullahi, Department of Crop Protection; Professor Balarabe, Professor Veronica Umor, Engineer. M. Abarshi, Dr. A.D Ibrahim, Dr. Y Obadaki, Dr. Lawal Garba, Mr. Haruna Nguide, Engineer M. A Sambo, Mr. B.G Hayi and Mrs. M.B Yuri.

It was learnt that Professor Laszlo Egler, a Hungarian, who was Professor of Medicinal Micro-Biology at ABU Teaching Hospital between 1962 and 2000 traveled around West Africa with his wife Mrs. Andrea Egler, former staff of university health services. They brought plants and trees from many places including the rainforest and wetlands of Niger Delta.

On Egler’s deathbed, Mahadi visited him and one of Egler’s wishes was that his wife be engaged by the University for the aggressive greening of the entire landscape. Professor Krzysztol Schoeneich, a Polish Professor of Geology who has been in Nigeria for over 34 years confirmed this.


Mahadi, according to sources, was a very willing confidant and ally and founder. He shared Professor Egler’s views and forged ahead through the committee and Mrs. Egler. The committee members according to Sule Abdullai were drawn from various discipline; Biological Sciences, Medicine, Forestry, Geology, Estate Management, Survey, Geography and Security.

To propagate their goals and disseminate information, they also included an audio visual aid expert, Malam Yusuf Ruma.

Ahmadu Bello University invites and involves anyone who has made a mark in the issue of Forestry anywhere in the country to contribute to the greening of the campus. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, a foremost farmer was invited even after leaving office to plant trees in ABU. Giwa Bisi-Rodipe, one of Nigeria’s greatest tree planters, who has a Forest Resource Centre and institution where University of Maiduguri students carried out internship in Ijebu Ode, Ogun State, also planted trees in Zaria.

Major General Mamman Kontangora, one-time Sole Administrator of the university also has a tree plantation on the campus just like Chief Obasanjo. All kinds of trees found in the southern part of Nigeria including palm trees are grown in ABU. Some of the palm trees have been bearing fruits.

One major problem confronting the University and the neighboring communities is shortage of water. The university constructed a dam at a place called Kubanni within the campus the reservoir supplies water but there are growing fears that water crisis is imminent in future if…

A report by ABU committee on protection of the Kubani Dam drainage basin presented to Professor Abdullai, the vice chancellor, on the need to upgrade the environment in Kubanni Drainage Basin, feared that from the year 2023, rationing of water will start, first during the dry season and later in both seasons.

In the voluminous and thoroughly investigated study, the ABU committee on environment submitted; “from the 2039, there will be no more water in the reservoir during the dry season. In the year 2059, the reservoir, completely silted up, will disappear from the map.”

This is now the freeing fear amongst experts at ABU and they have this sought assistance from the federal ministry of environment.

The committee of environmental experts recommended afforestation of the drainage basin to resave the reservoir. But this is not the only solution proffered.

According to the committee afforestation and other forms of upgrading biological environment of the drainage basin, alone will not help. They further recommended excavation of sediment from the reservoir as well as upgrading of biological environment in the drainage basin to extend indefinitely life span of the Kubanni dam.

The Guardian gathered that in its aggressive tree planting campaign over the years, ABU planted no fewer than 14,890 trees annually. They are nurtured by the staff and protected round the clock by forest guards who were spotted in their uniforms. ABU is the foremost Nigerian institution of higher learning where forest guards are on the university’s pay roll.

Neither stray animals nor grazing are allowed on the campus. The university not only sensitised the neighboring Samaru village on the need to carry out environmental protection, it also assisted them to cart away wastes with its refuse vans. In one year alone, the university donated 1,000 trees to the neighboring communities.

Fifty years ago, Sir Ahmadu Bello captured the mission of the university in very succinct words that it was “formed to impart knowledge and learning to men and women of all races without any distinction on the grounds of race, religious and political beliefs.

“Only through freedom of membership and freedom of enquiry and research can a university be drawn into the full ferment of thought from which new knowledge comes. If our staff and students are drawn from all parts of the world, then the mixture of international minds working together in an atmosphere of academic freedom can produce a university true to its real and meanings,” the Premier had noted.

The student population is about 35,000 and they are drawn from every state in Nigeria. There are 1,780 academic staff and 4,549 non-teaching staff. When it started in October 1962, ABU had 425 students and 142 teaching and non-teaching staff.

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Author of this article: By Tunde Akingbade (who was in Zaria)

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