INVESTIGATION: Idle Parks and Recreation Centers in Lagos Anger Residents
SECURITY MO NITOR’s Ronke Kasali in this exclusive findings reports that various parks and recreation centers in Lagos are not put into use raising questions on why the government invested hugely on them
Former Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola of Lagos state was known for his Green Revolution Initiative. In recent times the effect of global warming has been noticeable in our environment due to increased temperature, rising sea levels, destruction of forests, flooding, etc. The need for a green revolution became imperative to the survival of the human race. The initiative has brought about the beautification of many hitherto slum spots in the state, with many turned into relaxation parks and gardens. In Just 10 years, no fewer than 180 parks sprung up within Lagos metropolis. Statistics may have prompted their creations. Work pressures, relationship issues, parenting, financial worries and fears for the future have become common to those who live in Lagos. And as the pressure mounts, they drain energy and create stress. So to reduce stress among its populace, Lagos State Government has concerned itself with creation of parks for residents to sit, play and relax.
Before Fashola’s administration came into power in the state, most relaxation parks serves as abodes for social miscreants and hoodlums, popular known as ‘area boys/agberos’ in local parlance. In an attempt to tackle these contemporary threats to the environment, the state government created the Lagos State Ministry of Parks and Garden Agency, LASPARK. The ministry is saddled with the responsibility of establishing a recreation parks/garden and the beatification of the state. Presently, the ministry has established over 25 parks and gardens in the state.
Sadly, most Lagos residents do not bother so much about finding space to reduce stress. For instance, most residents told SECURITY MONITOR that recreation culture is alien to them. Femi Ojedokun, said that it is not in the culture of Nigerians to go to garden and parks for recreation purpose. “I prefer going to the cinema, shoprite, eateries and other places where I can have fun rather than visit a garden. It’s quite absurd to me”, he said.
For Raheem Akinjide, a Lagos resident, he is of the opinion that though they talked about the beauty of most of the gardens, but they said the demands of work and other socio-activities like attending wedding will not allow them to go for recreation at the gardens. Besides, some residents said location of the gardens are difficult to access and thus making them unattractive. “How do you get there and where do you park your cars, People are burdened with a lot of stressful activities that they oftentimes have that I don’t care attitude to leisure. It’s a culture that needs to be encouraged in Lagos, but creating parks alone without that orientation will not achieve anything. People will just see it as a beautification project without that thought for relaxation. Some of the parks for instance have no chairs, unlike what we see elsewhere outside the country and of course the location of the parks and their nearness to where people live is an important consideration,” Akinjide added.
When the SECURITY MONITOR visited many of the parks around the state, most of them were empty except for the gardens in Ikeja that often attract a number of people, especially during festive periods.
During SECURITY MONITOR’s visit to the Heritage Recreational Park at Oshodi, it was locked. There were no fun seekers at the park. By the side of the park and garden were miscreants who were smoking openly, without of fear of arrest by the law enforcement agencies. What is worrisome was that policemen at the police post erected in the park were there, and never bothered to arrest the hoodlums. Some residents of the area alleged that the police usually aid the hoodlums in perpetrating their illicit acts.
At the Gani Fawehinmi Park at Ojota, it was empty and deserted. Nobody was there, except for street hawkers who kept their wares inside the garden. But the garden was clean. It was however under lock, but the hawkers scaled the barbed wire to store their wares. The magazine met a cleaner at the garden who revealed that the park was often used for a political rally.
The Moshood Kashimawo Olawale, MKO Garden is presently not in use for the public, though it’s always kept clean and tidy. Only officials of Kick Against Indiscipline, KAI and Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA were seen sitting and relaxing in the garden.
The Alausa park and garden is the most visited park in the Ikeja area of the state. Most fun seekers thronged there for relaxation purpose. No fee is however attached to their visit. As it is free for fun seekers anytime of the day.
The Fountain park at Isheri-Odo area of the state is also deserted. According to one of the officials of the park, the level of patronage has reduced tremendously, but the park host birthday parties, wedding ceremony, school’s end of the year parties, get together etc.
To some residents, the creation of parks is no doubt, a significant transformation, which they strongly believed has changed the landscape of Lagos in the last one decade. They acknowledged the aesthetic values of various parks in the state and gave a thump up to the government.
Following the claim by some Lagosians that the parks and gardens are idle, the State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Steve Ayorinde, said that Lagosians should understand the nature of the parks. He explained that not all the parks are for recreational purposes, some he said are for the beautification of the state.
Adding to this, an official of the Lagos Parks and Garden Agency, LASPARK, said there are about 25 parks and garden in the state, in which the parks and gardens are categorized into two types; Recreation and Beautification. The beautification one the source revealed is found at Roundabouts and beside the roads. These he said are not opened to the public, because they are not meant for recreation.
The other one are major parks for recreation purposes, and are mostly found around Ikeja and Victoria Island, which are opened to the public at anytime of the day, in which fees are not charged, unless it is a group of four or more people.
For example, the Ndubuisi Kanu and Muri Okunola park at Victoria Island is said to be the most lucrative park in the state, which generate income for the state. The source disclosed that to book the park for any functions, a fee of N27,500 would be paid. In which N20,000 would be given to the Lagos State Government, while N7,500 would go to LASPARK.
The source however debunked the claim that the parks are deserted, saying that people struggle to book for the parks. “All the days of the months are already booked, especially during festive seasons. The patronage at these parks are high followed by the parks at Ikeja”.