It is expedient to bring to the public domain that the rate at which the Oyo State Government is converting public lands to private residential estates in Ibadan is becoming quite worrisome. While the conversion of lands hitherto allocated for public uses is not a recent development in Ibadan as successive administrations have converted public land for residential purposes, the vigour with which the current administration of Seyi Makinde is plundering this common land heritage is unprecedented.
Since the inception of this democratic dispensation in 1999, a number of public lands appropriated for other uses asides housing have been converted into highbrow private residential estates. The first of these was the conversion of the Old Airport at Samonda to Aerodrome GRA which is a gated private residential estate for the opulent.
The proprietary rights to the Old Airport was transferred to the government of Oyo State during the Lam Adesina administration by the Federal Government of Nigeria justified by the new airport at Alakia.
Under the administration of Rasheed Ladoja who succeeded Lam Adesina, the Old Airport was subdivided into residential plots which were allocated mostly to those within the corridors of power at the time. This public land at a strategic location with ample acreage could have been appropriated for more pressing infrastructural and institutional developments.
Another notable public land in Ibadan to fall under the surging swords and blazing chariots of the political class was the agricultural reserve at Akobo/Monatan acquired by the administration of the late former governor Kolapo Ishola over thirty years ago.
The agricultural reserve was acquired to foster urban agriculture and serve as a pedestal to supply Ibadan with perishable edible items. The agricultural reserve was furtively converted into private residential estates, and now houses the Kolapo Ishola GRA and the Carlton Gate Estate, both of which are high brow residential developments for the super-rich.
With the coming into office of Seyi Makinde in 2019, it seems one of the prominent feats of the Oyo State Government has been to identify existing public lands in strategic locations irrespective of what purpose these lands were acquired to fulfil and sell these lands to private real estate developers under the guise of public-private partnerships. What is even more worrisome is the rate at which strategic public lands have been converted in quick succession.
Amongst the first public land the Seyi-Makinde led Oyo State Government converted was the land belonging to the Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State (BCOS) a state-owned media house located at Bashorun. The undeveloped large expanse of vacant land within the premises of the corporation was carved out and allocated to a private real estate firm to develop a residential estate in spite of the courageous protests by the staff of BCOS who are employees of Oyo State. The exorbitant cost of these residential plots is only within the grasp of the wealthy and buttresses the capitalist agenda of this administration.
In a similar fashion, vast acres of land at the African Regional Centre for Engineering Design and Manufacture (ARCEDEM) at Olodo has been converted into a private residential estate. ARCEDEM which came into existence in 1980 was established with the rationale to foster research, planning and implementation programmes for the effective use of agricultural machinery and equipment for intensive agriculture in Africa.
The Centre setup to design, develop and adapt prototypes of agricultural machinery has been converted to Rayfield Gardens City Estate. A land appropriated by long past visionary administration of Oyo State to foster industrial development has been sold to a private developer under the guise of public-private partnership facilitated by the Oyo State Investment and Public Private Partnership Agency (OYSIPA) between the Oyo State Government and Fendini Homes.
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It is indisputable that the Land Use Act confers powers on the Governor of a State to abrogate and allocate land for public use, the same Act states that such land can only be adjudicated in the overall public interest. Converting strategic public lands for private residential development is evidently not in the public interest as these conversions are capitalist agendas with no bearing upon improving the economic conditions and curtailing the housing deficit of majority of the populace. In a city where the sparse existing public lands for recreation and other public uses are inadequate, this is perturbing.
Recently, the Trans Amusement Park at Bodija and the Agodi Gardens have also joined BCOS and ARCEDEM as the latest public lands to be handed over to private real estate firms for residential development. Considering the rate at which this administration is converting public lands in Ibadan, if these successive actions are left unchecked, we may wake up someday to discover all the existing public lands in Ibadan overrun with private residential estates before the current governor completes his tenure.
Public lands should be protected against the selfish whims and caprices of the political class. It is appalling when the governor who is the constitutional custodian of the land resources of the state is at the forefront of plundering the same resources for commercial motivations. It is even more appalling when those with the wherewithal to advise or oppose the government keep quiet in the face of such brazen misappropriation of the common land resources of the state.
Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria
11 September 2023