How Imo community tackles Gov Uzodinma over plan to convert zoo to estate

The lingering controversy over the relocation of the Nekede Zoo in Imo State by Governor Hope Uzodinma has refused to abate as the people of Umuejechi Nekede has “notified that all the lands comprised in the former Agriculture Development Corporation (ADC) which includes the moribund Nekede Zoo and the adjoining lands which the Government of Imo State is presently trespassing into is the bonafide property of the people of Umuejechi Nekede citing the judgment of the High Court of Imo State as affirmed by the Court of Appeal.

The Umuejechi Central Assembly stressed that “anybody dealing with the Government of Imo State or any of its agencies over the land or any part of it does so at his or her own risk as the land does not belong to the Government of Imo State….CONTINUE READING

The disputrle over the land escalated in February when Governor Uzodima relocated the animals in the zoo to Jos Zoological Garden. Before the relocation of the wildlife, there are speculations that the zoo would be converted to an estate

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The Nekede zoo is located in Owerri West Local Government Area of the State. The zoological garden established in 1976 under the state Ministry of Agriculture as an animal park. The zoo which sits on 10 hectares of reserved forest, houses a variety of animals, including lions, chimpanzees, monkeys, pythons, ostriches and crocodiles, among other animals.

With a massive land mass of rain forest, which has been restricted strictly against any form of encroachment, the Nekede Zoological Gardens has a natural appeal, which holds visitors spellbound, coupled with the nerve calming chirrup from more than 1,000 species of birds that nest on the huge trees in the rich forest.

A community leader said in Owerri last week that although the zoo had suffered neglect under successive administrations in the state, the recent attempt to demolish and convert the zoo to a residential estate remains the height of recklessness.

Also, the Nigerian Association of Zoological Gardens and Wildlife Parks (NAZAP) has said the alleged plan to close the Imo State Zoo in Nekede would negatively affect conservation education, research and tourism in Nigeria.

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In a statement, the group advised Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo State to reconsider this decision, saying it would send the wrong signal to the global community, especially after he promised during the 2020 World Wildlife Day commemoration in Owerri, Imo State, that his administration would upgrade the facility to international standards.

“Our pioneer NAZAP Year Book has equally listed Imo State Zoo amongst its thriving national assets, thus deserving pride of place. We will be saddened by this turn of event, if true, especially as the zoo is now the only surviving zoo in the South East of Nigeria,” it added.

NAZAP further disclosed that, “Bringing closure to this facility, as being alleged, will be a costly narrative for conservation education, research and tourism in Nigeria

Meanwhile, Imo State Ministry of Environment has condemned the recent invasion of the state Zoological Garden and Wildlife Park by the host Nekede community in Owerri West council area of the state.

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Mr Gilbert Nnah, Permanent Secretary, who is also the acting Commissioner Ministry of Environment, made the disclosure in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)

Nnah also condemned the earlier claim by the community that the Attorney General of the state had ceded the forest to the community adding that the land still belonged to government.

According to him, no judgment can undermine the Land Use Act of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the legal protection status of the zoo as contained in the Eastern Nigeria No. 1350 Forest Law (Cap 55) of the 1966 section 7, sub section 2. This law set aside all wildlife and forest facilities as protected areas by law.”

But the community has also insisted that state had ceded the forest to them for expansion, a fact that has been denied by the state….CONTINUE READING