The Oyo State Government, through the state Ministry of Environment and Water Resources, on Thursday kicked off the Management of Open Spaces (MOPS) scheme.
The scheme, which began with a stakeholders forum organised at the Western Hall, State Secretariat complex Ibadan, is aimed at capturing public spaces in the state in line with the government’s urban regeneration masterplan. With the involvement of the private sector, the scheme will help the government in identifying and documenting all public spaces, removing encroachers, securing the sites and keeping them beautiful and environmentally friendly for residents.
Present at the stakeholders forum were heads and representatives of corporate organisations in Ibadan, which included banks, hotels, eateries, event centres, shopping malls and other business concerns. Also present were representatives of the Oyo State Road Traffic and Maintenance Agency, Ministry of Justice, Bureau of Planning and Development Control, Ministry of Environment and Water Resources, Oyo State Signage and Advertising Agency and several others.
In his speech, the Commissioner for Environment and Water Resources, Chief Isaac Ishola, described MOPS as a tool for rejuvenating the state at little cost to tax payers and with minimum disruption to daily commercial activities.
According to him, “MOPS will help to update government data on public spaces and to secure all such areas. In this way, trespassers and miscreants can be removed from parks, setbacks, and such like, making them safer for public use and available for development. Secondly, MOPS will reinforce the activities of other Oyo state agencies such as Waste Management, Transport Management and Signage”.
He added that the scheme will ensure that beautification and horticultural works on designed routes and parks are developed and always kept maintained. He explained that “this will increase the value of adjacent private properties and also make the vicinity attractive for development, for example, recreational purposes such as parks; for commercial activities, such as shopping malls or short-term car parks.”
Explaining what constitutes public spaces, the Director General of the Bureau of Planning and Development Control, Alhaji Waheed Gbadamosi, represented by S.P Taiwo, a director in the agency, said roads, including pavements, public squares, parks and beaches make up public spaces.
“In land use planning, open space is any open piece of land that is undeveloped, that has no buildings or other built structures and is accessible to the public” he said. He regretted that most of the public spaces in major towns and cities are being largely misused through unathourised conversion to residences and business places; unauthorised parking lots by commercial concerns whose buildings lack parking provisions; unauthorised markets and garages and unauthorised refuse dump sites.
According to him, MOPS is quite timely and important because “it is vital for cities to find ways to preserve, manage and create new public/open spaces. He pointed out that the physical and mental health benefits of using green open spaces are becoming ever more apparent to governments and citizens.”
In a pictorial presentation made on the routes covered by the scheme, the corporate bodies present were made to understand that the scheme will enable them ascertain where the property they occupy ends and where setbacks begin. The realisation will however not hurt as organisations that find themselves in default will be offered possible solutions that limit disruption and get them involved in the regeneration and beautification exercise that will also offer advertising opportunities to promote their brands or CSR projects.
Apart from the regeneration and beautification, it is understood that the scheme will also generate revenue for the government since suitable public spaces will be designed in accordance with the state government by-laws on temporary usage and rented to private entrepreneurs with all revenue paid directly to the state government’s account. It was also gathered that organizations will be invited to be part of the rehabilitation and maintenance of public areas.
The bulk of the revenue generated will be ploughed back into documenting and continuously protecting the physical infrastructure of targeted routes and public spaces. It will also be used to maintain beautification works in such routes and for the general enhancement of the environment.