The Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, Kaduna State is one of the foremost citadels of learning in the country. In this report, CHIKA OKEKE examines steps taken by the federal government through the Ecological Fund Office (EFO) to rescue the varsity from severe environmental threats.
The devastating impact of land degradation including, deforestation, bush-burning, illegal mining, over grazing, and desertification across the states is overwhelming. These have in most cases manifested in the form of gully and soil erosion, flooding as well as pollution.
The disasters caused by these are common sight in schools, residential areas and other communities with devastating effect on massive fertile lands for agriculture. Of course most of these threats have been attributed to climate change and illegal construction on flood-prone areas.
Renowned as one of the premiere universities in Nigeria, ABU has massive empty lands that could be converted to industries, but is now threatened by soil erosion.
An on-the-spot assessment of the institution revealed that the varsity has many untapped economic potential. With over 2, 876 hectares of land, large quantities of cash and food crops consumed by Nigerians could be grown in ABU if fully harnessed.
In a chat with LEADERSHIP, the chairman of Agric complex, ABU, Mr Abdullahi Kolo Mohammed noted that in harnessing the institutions resources, they are focusing on irrigation farming since ABU has a dam.
He pointed out that the dam would help to reticulate and water the economic trees, as there are also plans to embark on fish and dry season farming.
On plans to open-up ABU through Public Private Partnership (PPP), Mohammed hinted that the institution recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with investors for harnessing its economic potentials.
“This will empower many people because we have villages around the university that are made up of farmers. They can utilise the opportunity to grow their food and cash crops”.
The EFO had in the past intervened in ABU such as the dredging and removal of about one million cubic meters of silt from the University dam and reservoir known as Kubanni dam, construction of sediment traps on two tributaries and construction of detention basin that serves as natural treatment against pollution.
The office also constructed an automated 200 cubic meters water treatment plant, a Levee to prevent siltation deposit on borrow pit and flood and erosion control through the reconstruction of collapsed embankment and spillway of the University farm dam.
The permanent secretary of Ecological Fund Office (EFO), Dr Habiba Lawal said that considering what is available on the campus, there is a need to do more but it is not within her powers to approve more projects.
According to her, “If the university requests, we will look at it and recommend to Mr President and see whether he will approve more projects for the institution.”
The permanent secretary was excited that EFO projects improved the quality of the university, both individually and in the area of teaching and research, stressing that it connected the Phase I and Phase II of the campus.
“It has been a good experience and the community members are equally excited about the project,” she added.
On the university farm dam, she stated that the site was a thick forest two years ago and now surrounded with green areas.
In line with the mandate of EFO in addressing ecological issues across the states, the office recently intervened through the construction of 4.5km road with drains and culverts on both sides as well as reclamation works at some areas prone to gully erosion.
The project is one of the 22 ecological intervention projects approved by the President in 2018 and the contract was awarded by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) on 8th November, 2018.
It was expected to check erosion/flooding, likewise provide improved access road to the Phase II of the main campus, thus enhancing learning and working condition within the institution.
Commissioning the road project, the secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha lamented that the university is grappling with huge infrastructure deficit and environmental degradation that required external support to complement the university’s drive of sustaining its prestigious fame.
Mustapha, who was represented by the permanent secretary of EFO, Dr Habiba Lawal emphasised that out of three projects executed by EFO in ABU, that one was approved during President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration and the remaining two in President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
He maintained that Dangote built a hostel in the phase II of the campus, which lacked access road prior to EFO’s intervention, saying that the philanthropist’s gesture and others from stakeholders would relieve pressure on government’s lean resources.
Mustapha added that, “The federal government through the EFO has continued to implement massive flood/erosion control projects across the country, which is a demonstration of the sincerity of the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration towards entrenching justice, equity and fair play”.
Also speaking, the director of Soil Erosion and Control, EFO, Engr Felix Okeke disclosed that the timely completion of the project was made possible through the collaborative efforts of the contractor and consultant in minimising loss of time in the project implementation schedule.
Okeke, who read the permanent secretary’s address, noted that the commissioning and handing over of the project was intended to achieve the dual purposes of enabling the community to take over the ownership of the project and sustain it.
Also speaking, the vice-chancellor of ABU, Prof Kabir Bala said the project would improve the quality of raw water, reduce the amount of chemicals used in treating the water and reduce water-related diseases.
He noted that it would also control pollution and stabilise erosion within the catchment area of the dam and provide enough water for irrigation farming at the university farm dam.
While appreciating the efforts of the federal government, he recommended the naming of the first segment of the road after Barr Boss Gida Mustapha while the second segment would be named after Dr Habiba Muda Lawal.
Also speaking, the project contractor, Mr Sanusi Turaki of Cosy and Associates Nigeria limited said the roads were swampy and he used thousands of trucks loaded with sands to fill it to the ground level .
He added, “Working during the raining season was challenging but with the cooperation from my client and ABU Zaria, we were able to complete the project successfully”.
Turaki stated that the community was excited about the project, as his company employed the locals, who were engaged in manual labour, as well as bought some materials used in the construction.
The contractor was optimistic that the project was executed according to the design, concept and specification.