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Nigeria and her treeless cities


Sir: I remember taking boyhood strolls, in the military barracks – where I was raised in Sokoto in a serene environment with trees everywhere. There were trees lined up in order everywhere in that barracks. In front of all houses and behind. How can I forget those Neem trees also called DOGON YARO which served as shades for rest, under which many a soldier played draughts, as medicine for malaria and high fever.

Today, regrettably, in Nigerian cities the vegetation is bare. You can hardly see streets that can be likened to a boulevard. Not even in the trumpeted GRA. Those days in the barracks, soldiers were mandated to plant trees. They came home with plants wrapped in black cellophane bags. It was thrilling to see them nurture these plants to health. Now no one cares. Our cities are treeless. Only a handful of trees can be seen and are planted by people who understand the importance of nature and not as a policy from the State through the environment ministry or even those in urban planning.

I enjoyed the outdoors as a youngster because there were trees. I learned to climb many. Climbing a tree was easy but coming down surprisingly was very hard. Our youngsters nowadays truly miss a lot because there aren’t advantages today to be
taken to enjoy the great outdoors.‬ I can’t imagine my children in my mind’s eye climbing a tree. Not with the many cartoon networks for company indoors. Research has proved that greenery of the environment, of houses and walking in neighbourhoods full of trees is good not only for our physical well-being but also our mental wellness. ‬I am not suggesting that we should all be cock-a-hoop over the planting of trees but we can’t discountenance the importance of nature in our everyday life. For it is key to the well-being of people.‬

A septuagenarian whom I visited recently told me the secret to coping with widowhood is thanks to nature (her house in the GRA is surrounded with all manner of plants and trees), which has helped her in fighting depression. If this is true for her then the likelihood of trees in cities reducing high blood pressure, heart diseases, and many other sicknesses is high. Venturing out reduces feelings of loneliness, banish sequesteration, and is a coping mechanism for illness. But what should we venture out to see with an environment not taken care of, not protected and debased? Some researchers have compared the reduction of aggression, reduction of crime in many neighbourhoods to the planting of trees in such environments. Maybe we could look along that line to bolster the feelings of kinship between man and the environment.‬
Simon Abah wrote from Abuja

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Simon Abah
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