Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I welcome you warmly to this year 2014, tree planting.
This is the 6th consecutive year that we have commemorated this event since I declared in 2008 that July 14 will be our State’s Tree Planting Day.
It speaks eloquently to the consistency of our Government in formulating policies and staying with them.
All over the world today, wherever you go, you will observe that cities and countries are embarking on massive tree planting and greening programmes.
It is a serious matter that underpins our survival on this planet because the threat of global warming and climate change is now undebatable.
As the former Vice President of the United States Al Gore put it eloquently, it is “…an inconvenient truth”.
People and governments who are serious must stop pretending and take action.
I am happy to be the head of a Government that first took very clear and positive action in Nigeria to protect the environment and create parks, gardens and also plant trees.
All over the State, wherever you go, you will now see scores of parks, gardens and millions of trees in different stages of development.
Our uninformed and unable opponents criticized our initiative. They called it ‘cosmetic’, they called it ‘elitist’.
They clearly demonstrated their ignorance because the environment is also the new economy.
What they call ‘cosmetic’ and ‘elitist’ has developed our economy. It has created jobs and it has put food on the tables of many people who would otherwise be unemployed.
Today, I am very proud to share the economic impact of this programme with you.
Between 2008-2013, 28,094 jobs were created from the annual tree planting, while between January and June 2014, 3,180 jobs were created.
These came from maintenance of nurseries, to supply of seedlings, planting the trees, maintaining them daily for which people are paid and the provision of tools, which are supplied to do the works.
This also includes water supply by tankers, their drivers and their assistants.
These are ordinary people for whom this initiative has become a life saver, a source of dignity that helps them say every morning to their families, “I am going to work”.
For the landscaping, development and maintenance of parks and gardens let me share the number of jobs with you.
Direct labour horticulturists – 51
Major contractors – 10
Plumbers (sprinklers, water pumps) – 5,000
Electricians (Lighting parks, maintaining fittings) – 6,256
Bricklayers – 12,512
Gardeners – 15,640
Painters – 2,496
Welders – 14,688
Labourers (for site clearing) – 2,504
Consultants – 3
Security men – 2,176
Graphic Artists (Signs) – 15
Sculptors – 10
The total, ladies and gentlemen, is 61,361 people who run small businesses and mainly sole enterprises.
This is a summary of our report on this project.
This excludes suppliers of trimmers, lawn mowers, blades, uniforms, boots and other equipment.
I feel vindicated by the result of this far sighted initiative for many reasons.
First, it is consistent with Goal Number 7 of the Millennium Development Goal and our party’s commitment to sustainable environmental development.
Secondly, we have turned an environmental challenge into a massive economic opportunity.
Thirdly and perhaps very defining, I feel vindicated by our opponent’s flip flop, lies and shameful inconsistency.
The Gani Fawehinmi Memorial Park is one of the products of this greening and tree planting initiative.
In 2012, when people rallied at that park in Ojota to protest the anti-people policy of subsidy withdrawal by our opponents early in the New Year, they were repelled by heavily armed security personnel.
They always turn the security personnel against the people they are supposed to protect instead of against those who threaten the people.
But in a manner of unthinking inconsistency, it was the same park in Ojota that they now chose to hold their party rally last week.
Have they forgotten that the park was ‘cosmetic’? Have they forgotten that the park is ‘elitist’?. Or are they the true elites?
For me they have shown themselves up for who they are; a party unworthy of trust that is lacking in consistency.
For the people of Lagos, for our employees, artisans and economic beneficiaries of this policy, this is the last Tree Planting Day that I will address as your Governor.
We have institutionalized the policy by setting up a statutory agency, the Lagos Parks and Gardens Agency (LASPARK), to maintain and sustain the parks, gardens and trees.
Our Government and our Party remains committed to continuing it. But you know what our opponents think about it.
If you value the jobs and economic benefit it has brought to you, you must vote to keep it.
You must defend your livelihood with your votes.
May God help you all as you do so when the time is right.
Thank you for listening.
Eko o ni baje.
Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN
Governor of Lagos State
July 14, 2014