Following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) last November between ACI Environment and Resources Limited and the Imo State Government (represented by the Ministry of Petroleum and Environment) for the concessioning, redevelopment and management of the Nekede Zoological Gardens, we are pleased to report that discussions and negotiations have fully progressed and a final concession agreement for the handover of the Garden is expected to be signed this month.
ACI, a Federal Ministry of Environment-accredited consulting firm with specialisation in Environment, Natural Resources, Sustainable Development and Investment Promotion,
will fully take over the management of the Nekede Zoological Garden from June and thereafter commence its re-development to international standard.
Preparatory to the signing of the concession agreement and take-over of the Garden, ACI initiated and undertook several activities, such as: conducting a preliminary feasibility study on the viability of the Zoo and cost analysis; preparing a detailed survey of the Garden with a geo-referenced Survey Plan in 1:1000 scale generated; preparing a brief survey of, and identification of best practices in the management of zoological and botanical gardens in the USA, Europe, Asia and Africa; preparation of a redevelopment design and commencement of the design of a new comprehensive masterplan for the Nekede Zoological Garden and Resort; and preparation of a detailed bill/price of quantity for the redevelopment works to be undertaken in the initial phase.
ACI Environment and Resources Limited and its partners have reportedly mobilised resources (expertise, technology and funding) to accomplish the re-development of the zoo and bring it to international standard. The re-development will incorporate the globally accepted Leadership for Environmental and Energy Design (LEED) for the design, construction, operations and maintenance of the facility so as to enhance biodiversity conservation, environmental sustainability, energy efficiency, wealth creation and tourism development in Imo State and the entire South East region.
Head of ACI, Chika Ukwe, said: “ACI Environment and Resources Limited goal for the Nekede Zoological Garden and Resort is to create a 21st Century Zoological Garden and Resort that will enhance the preservation and conservation of indigenous and endangered faunal and floral biological diversity, facilitate increased tourist inflows to the state, create jobs and facilitate knowledge management through advocacy, education and learning for residents and visitors alike. A central part of the redevelopment work is the establishment of a well resourced Educational and Learning Centre for conservation learning and advocacy.”
Dr. Ukwe noted that, in undertaking the re-design of the Nekede Zoological Gardens and Resort Masterplan, ACI “was conscious of and fully guided by international best practices for Zoologcal Gardens and Resorts as areas for nature conservation with appropriate infrastructure and activities for recreation, education and learning.”
According to him, the re-developed Gardens and Resort will provide the following general socio-economic and environmental benefits:
- First class recreation and entertainment for residents of Owerri and visitors from the state and beyond.
- Enhance increased tourists inflow and create jobs for residents.
- Serve as a major anchor for promotion of biological conservation and ecotourism in Imo state at the regional, national and international levels.
- Provide high quality facilities for conferences, receptions as well as books, gift shops and restaurants.
- Serve as an international center of excellence for conservation of indigenous biodiversity, a reservoir for preservation of herbs, medicinal plants, and the traditional medicine of Imo state and Southeastern region.
- Establish a network of community forests, sacred forests and groves, to service the Garden with indigenous plants.
- Provide training and capacity building for university students as well as operators of similar projects in Africa.
- Adopt and demonstrate the use of Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Techniques with a view to attracting further funding from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).
- Develop a concessioning system that includes: (a) local community equity (e.g. joint ventures with local communities), (b) local employment, training and procurement (e.g. local products and services); (c) EIAs and Environmental Management Systems; (d) conservation management.
- Develop concessions for accommodation, restaurants and retail facilities, ensuring local participation in a meaningful economic sense.
He stressed that the redeveloped Nekede Zoological Garden and Resort will not only capture the beauty and diversity of the floral and fauna bio-resources of the South-East geopolitical zone, but also enhance a people’s relationship to an inheritance and their interactions with the environment in time and space. The redeveloped Nekede Zoological Garden and Resort is designed to have the capacity to sustain itself, inform, educate and entertain a large number of first time and returning visitors, as well as preserve the rich biological diversity of Imo State and the south-east region for future generations, he emphasised.
Ukwe went on: “The new masterplan for the Nekede Botanical/Zoological Gardens and Resort incorporates globally accepted norms and best practices in nature conservancy and entertainment with the following features: a collection of different species of indigenous and non-indigenous animals housed in environmentally-friendly pens/cages depicting their natural environments; a comprehensive collection of plants from Imo state and the south-east, each identified and catalogued; a Garden of Healing Plants; an interactive website/portal to expand the reach of the project; an educational curricula for online visitors; eco-lodges/tourist accommodation as well as a modern indoor and outdoor facilities for event hosting (including conferences, seminars, wedding receptions and social events), Educational and Learning Centre, Children Playground/Amusement Park, Waterpark, art exhibitions; gift shops and restaurants, and a movie theater.
ACI Environment and Resources Limited has consciously designed that the re-developed Garden and Resort become an integral part of the Government’s Recue Agenda for Imo State and for the evolution of Owerri as an international city, building upon its foundation as the cultural, intellectual, tourist and entertainment capital of the south-east geopolitical zone. The Garden and Resort will promote ecotourism as a feasible alternative livelihood option that will also encourage the protection of natural resources. The Nekede Zoological Garden and Resort will provide a resource for people locally, as well as nationally and internationally, to better understand our relationship to other life on earth, giving new meaning to the re-greening of Owerri.”