Bodija Housing Estate: Oyo State’s Environmental Sore Thumb

The explosive rate of population growth has not only progressively complicated and aggravated the problems of human settlements and the environment, it is equally responsible for the declining quality of life, as well as the under-utilization of the untapped wealth of human resources.

This situation has equally generated massive pressure on infrastructure, basic services, and housing in expanding urban centres in Nigeria. Millions of the citizens presently are compelled to live in substandard environments like slums, plagued by squalor and lack of basic social amenities such as schools, health centres, recreational facilities, among others.

Hence, it was with great foresight about future challenges that Bodija Housing Estate was conceived by the Western Nigerian Government under the leadership of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, a foremost visionary. The aim was to elevate residents considerably from the surrounding pressures of urbanisation and ensure quality standard of living for all those who would reside in the estate. It was not intended for the rich, but basically for civil servants of the region, as the estate was stationed next door to the Secretariat, Agodi. It was a well laid out accommodation befitting the engine of the government. It was also maintained properly.

However, following the abrupt termination of the First Republic, the estate gradually began to suffer serious degradation due to neglect and abuse. This severe degradation began to accelerate speedily in the early 90s as the last surviving first-generation residents began to pass away. Not only was the masterplan violated repeatedly in the name of commercialization and unscrupulous approvals, residents also witnessed the springing up of night clubs within the estate at an alarming dimension in the last six years. The wellbeing of its residents as well has been heavily endangered. Robbery, theft, over-speeding, noise pollution, obstruction of entrances to personal premises, owing to parked vehicles by patrons, have been on the rise ever since.

In Old-Bodija, between the Housing Roundabout and the Elewure end of Awolowo Avenue, there are five nightclubs and bars, within a distance of just about 700 meters. On the other end are two to three other bars and night clubs, at the beginning of the avenue. Unfortunately, behind one of the nightclubs on the Elewure end is a home for old people on Alabiamo Street.

Serenity and quietness, the hallmark of the estate, has suddenly given way to a noisy atmosphere, with little or no restriction. This begins from the early hours of the morning till very late at night. Night clubs in saner climes are soundproof, but the ones in Old-Bodija, apart from drawing shady characters to the estate, are nothing but the highest level of noise pollution with loud night parties.

Efforts at checking the excesses of the club owners received a boost during the last administration. Oyo State’s Ministry of Environment responded positively to reports on the basis of the law against noise pollution in the state. But the control was ephemeral. Also, the Late Hon. Kehinde Ayoola, former Commissioner for Environment, was quite concerned about the plight of the residents, and very supportive in correcting the anomalies, as he was known across the state as being very passionate about issues of the environment. He summoned a meeting of the residents, the club, and bar owners during his tenure. The noise went down for a while, but has now gone out of hand.

Apart from noise pollution, green areas and setbacks have been given out for the erection of permanent structures, resulting in perennial flooding and erosion. Lower Adeyi Avenue is a case in point.

Currently, available information points to the fact that a filling station is coming up right on the grounds of the Oyo State Housing Corporation – right opposite the Bodija (Housing) Police Station!

The question is, were the dangers posed to the residents by such a development taken into consideration when granting such an approval? How safe, and how convenient is the offloading of petroleum products in such an environment? More than once, fire has engulfed more accessible areas in Ibadan city, leading to huge loss of lives and properties. The reason has always been that basic environmental rules are ignored with most of the petrol stations involved wrongly located.

Apart from the fact that it is the responsibility of the government to protect her citizens, Oyo State owes a duty to protect Bodija Housing Estate – the first modern housing estate in Africa, and one of the historical landmarks of Western Nigeria. It is an Oodua heritage – eminently qualified to be designated a World Heritage Site. Successive governments in the state have established one housing estate or another, even the current administration is taking a giant leap in that direction, but the fact still remains that none of those estates can have the status of Bodija Estate.

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Instead of allowing its continued degradation through the flagrant violation of its master plan, Oyo State government should step-up the game and arrest the continued indiscriminate use of spaces, facilities and structures. Relevant regulatory agencies should be empowered to enforce existing laws for the wellbeing of the residents and the city as a whole. Not only will this stimulate sustainable growth of urban centres in Oyo State and the country at large, it will also promote the sustainability of housing provision to the benefit of the present and future generations.

Seun Addie

Categories: Architecture, Features

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