Lagos Polo Club’s Eden Project to save the environment

Founded in 1904, the over-a-century-old Lagos Polo Club in Ikoyi, Lagos has embarked on a massive landscape transformation by planting over 160 trees around its premises in its initial phase. The exercise will be extended to its environs. Tagged ‘The Eden Project,’ ? this green sustainability project will not only create a world-class environment, but it will? also re-create a new vista in the heart of Ikoyi? and support and strengthen the climate and ecosystem resilience. CHINAKA OKORO reports

The sprawling landscape of Lagos Polo Club is relatively serene. It is also lush. Everything sparkles in quality, standard, and uniqueness. The ambience and environment are neat with courteous members of staff displaying their friendly disposition just to make the audience to feel at home. The harmattan breeze which blew continuously from newly planted trees offered the occupants and the environs some cool and fresh air.

Through its Eden Project, which focuses on massive landscape transformation through tree planting, over 160 trees were planted around its premises in its initial phase and will be replicated in other areas in its environs. The green sustainability project  will not only create a world-class environment, it will  also  re-create a  new vista in the heart of Ikoyi  and support and strengthen the climate and ecosystem resilience.

The club has a rich pedigree of achievements  since inception  over a century ago.  Founded in 1904, the Lagos Polo Club is the first to be established in Nigeria. It was created by a team of British Naval Officers who loved the sport of horse riding and horse racing. The premier private sporting club has a rich history as it was created before Nigeria’s independence. With its yearly tournaments, standard horse riding academy, and affiliations with international organisations, the club has grown to become the best and most famous polo club in Nigeria.

Every year, the Lagos Polo Club holds one main tournament and several mini- tournaments. The main tournament is the Lagos International Polo Tournament held around February and March for a two-week period. It is the largest Polo tournament in Africa as it attracts a large number of polo players and lovers from several countries. Also, professional polo players from Argentina participate in the tournament. The recently-concluded 2020 Lagos Polo Tournament which featured 39 polo teams, the highest in the history of NPA Tournaments came to a grand finale on February 18, 2020.  The Lagos Polo Club Tournament is, arguably, one of the biggest social events in Nigeria. However, apart from its glamour and the never-ending after-game parties, the highlight this year was the inauguration of the newly built state-of-the-art viewing stand by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu.  The world-class viewing stand marks the beginning of a new era for the premier club in Nigeria. It delivers an exclusive VIP box experience with a clear panoramic view of the field on the first floor and a vibrant state-of-the-art bar beneath it.

Just as it’s known for its glamour,  Lagos  Polo Club has been involved in several Corporate  Social  Responsibility  activities  over the years. For  example, it  partnered with a non-governmental organisation (NGO) on a literacy campaign for the horse grooms.  During the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, it  supported Lagos State government’s efforts and  also the  local government areas  with contributions towards alleviating some of the situations caused by the pandemic. Also, the Club allows children  to ride at the polo club  in order  to get exposure to horses and horse care. The  goal is  to expose  people to horses and riding.

Like an old wine which gets better with age, the premier club keeps evolving with innovation. Over the past 10 years, the Club has gone through various transformation by various committee members with the sole aim to make it a world-class club.

Lagos Polo Club
•From left: Akinkungbe, Alakija, Olashoju, Akinwunmi, Makanjuola at the event

Recently, its President, Ayo Olashoju and his committee members which comprises the  1st  Vice-President, Timi Akinwunmi, 2nd Vice-President,Bode Makanjuola,  Secretary, Adeyemo Alakija, Treasurer,      Adeoluwa Dara, Polo Captain,   Rotimi  Makanjuola, Pony Welfare Officer, Lolu Agoro, Grounds Member,    Seyi Oyinlola, Stables and Surrounds Member, Tola Akinhanmi, Bar Secretary, Tunji Ashiru, Staff Welfare Officer, Olugbile Holloway, Catering Member,  Ayodeji Oyinlola,  Social Secretary Olumide Soyombo and  Femi Sanyaolu embarked on tree planting as part of their contributions to the club.  On  why the  committee  embarked on  the Eden Project,  Olashoju  revealed  that” Lagos Polo Club commenced a regeneration   project as far back as 10 years ago and the successive president has been working to improve and enhance the status of the club in one way or the  other.

“Historically, the grounds were densely populated with stables  and a host community and over the years, successive Presidents and  committees have made various contributions to lead the club to where it is today by limiting the number of stables to something that is manageable  while enhancing  the value of the environment  and leveraging on the existing surrounds and  facilities here.”

Continuing, he said: “Whilst the club has been in the heart of Ikoyi since 1904,   it is important that  steps are taken to modernise our club facilities to a level whereby it’s truly world-class, adds value to the  neighbourhood and impacts our environment in a sustainable and beneficial way. When I became resident in July of 2019, one of my key objectives was to ensure that the trajectory of development in the club was kept and increased.  Since then we have carried out several projects to enhance the club and now we commence our landscaping project. The ‘Eden Project’ basically involves  landscaping our neighbourhood by planting over 160 trees, walled gardens and more to enhance the environment within this part of Lagos.

“Since we live in a big, populated urban city – Lagos, an  oasis such as this is a welcome idea. We  commenced planning over  three months ago, getting everything in place and now we are at the actual delivery  stage  and  installation of the trees and walled gardens  having commenced.  We are optimistic that by the end of the year, we would have finished the installation and planting phases of the project and within the next 6-12 months, it will be a whole different Lagos Polo Club,” Olashoju assured.

The project is capital intensive but Olashoju has got the support of his reliable, committed and dedicated members. Hear him. “The project is large with significant costs, but the good thing  is that we have had a lot of support from our members who have, in one way or the other, supported the project.  We also have a partner – Arabella, who have invested in the project. The main costs of the project include preparing the grounds, introducing irrigation systems, logistics and transportation and the cost of the trees who are fully grown and are being transplanted from different parts of the country.

“Fortunately,   we are blessed to have a membership of likeminded people.  From the commencement of Lagos Polo Club, there has always been continuity. This is most evident in the past 10 years when successive Presidents and  Committees have made tremendous value contributions  to  the club through multiple projects. For example, this building where we are having this particular interview – the new VIP stand and bar, was the brainchild of the immediate past committee, but was completed by our current committee.”

Corroborating Olashoju’s view on the sustainability of the project,    Tola Akinhanmi,  said: “The    need for creating a legacy and which resonated among members and hence the buy-in for the project conceptually. In this regard, we proposed a fund-a-tree campaign’ as a way of raising funds internally and which encourages each member to support the project in one way or the other. So, that is the whole concept around ensuring  the preservation of our collective heritage and further enhancing for the future generation which is an idea that  the whole club buys into it.”

As part of its Corporate Social Responsibilities, the Lagos Polo Club Eden Project is a means of improving the environment, improving the air quality and positively impact the environment in a sustainable manner. This project will improve the value of the whole neighbourhood and in addition, some trees are going  to be planted on Awolowo Road and  Ribadu Road to beautify and  make it green in the subsequent phase in early 2021.

Basking  in the  euphoria of his committee’s recent  achievements  of tree planting,  Olashoju said  he is excited.   “We are very excited about this project, it is something that we are all very passionate about. With it being such I positive project,  the support from the club has been overwhelming with everybody  buying into  it. This is evidenced by the support, little or large. That is why I am confident that it will stand the test of time and definitely we can  make Lagos green.”

On why  he  is passionate about  Lagos Polo Club tree planting  project, the CEO, Arabella Landscape, Tola Akinkungbe, said  the most important asset one can bequeath to one’s children is one’s environment.

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