The Minister of Federal Capital Territory, Malam Mohammed Bello, has explained why his administration is enforcing the policy on parks operation in the nation’s capital.
He said that his administration decided to revert to the policy in order to ensure the attainment of 40 per cent threshold of green areas in the city.
Bello gave the insight when the management of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) led by its Managing Director, Mr Buki Ponle, paid a courtesy call on him on Thursday in Abuja.
“The whole concept of the park policy is to make sure that these green areas within Abuja as a city and to some extent parts of the territory are left green to be able to meet the 40 per cent threshold of green areas.
“Abuja was way ahead of many cities in terms of climate consideration and the whole idea was that you develop these green areas to make them truly green with vegetation, with green land, flowers and trees.
“That was achieved to a large extent some years back but with population growth of the city and demand for housing and land, if we are not conscious about it then we may derail ourselves and just make it a concrete city,” he said.
Bello said that the abuse on green areas had affected the ecosystem, adding that government realised sometimes in the mid 2000 that it was simply impossible to maintain all the green areas.
This, he said, informed the concessioning of green areas to private operators to develop as parks
“A park in the real sense of a park like we see in other countries is neat, clean with sidewalks, with areas for playground for children, playground for family members and areas of relaxation.
“And everywhere in the world, these parks have opening time and closing time and normally they are done in the day time may be from 8a.m. or in some cases 7a.m. and then by night they close,” he said.
The minister stated that almost 95 per cent of those who took parks under concession converted them into structures thereby abusing them and the environment.
“Instead of temporary structures using environmental friendly materials they started constructing solid concrete structures.
“And instead of making green areas they started creating concrete basement and that totally jettisoned the idea and as time went by, these concrete and permanent structures started to be converted into areas where a lot of things were done wrongly
“Parks that were meant to be areas where there will be aesthetics like you see in New York, London and so many other cities in the world gradually were converted into places where criminals stayed there.
“Because it is an open public space they will stay there in the night until midnight and after midnight you know what they do in the city.
“They create havoc in many of the parks and because the parks owners have not been able over time to invest to maintain it green it became easier for them to stay,” the minister said.
According to Bello, Abuja is a city where most people are workers and creating parks in neighbourhoods is to enable families within each neighbourhood to have a place to relax.
“But because it became something else,you go there and your handbag is snatched if you are a lady and your phone is not protected because people are under the influence of drugs.
“Families cannot even venture into parks even in the afternoon because many people have made it their own abode.
“Some of them will go under valleys and erect shanties.
“All the laws were there when the whole idea of park policy was initiated in the mid 2000 but as time went by institutions saddled with the responsibility of enforcement and monitoring didn’t do their work and that is the crisis we are now facing in the city
“Unfortunately as you can see the social media is awash with all kinds negative narrations but I thought I should clarify to NAN as manager of public thought.
“You can really understand what the issues are and provide information to our people to understand the message,” he said.
The minister revealed that the administration was getting positive feedback from residents, adding that they were appreciative for the enforcement of the policy.
“But you know as a country we don’t push for our rights.
“All the neighbors have been crying in silence, accusing government and complaining in silence but nobody was willing to confront these people in the parks
“And now that we are doing our work quietly they will commend us but nobody is coming out publicly to support us,” the minister said.
Earlier, Ponle had expressed the readiness of the agency to partner with the FCT administration on advocacy to educate residents to be conscious about their surroundings.
Ponle said it was the responsibility of every citizen to protect what the government had put in place.
“Abuja is beautiful and people make it beautiful. The hands construct and can destroy. You use your hands here to construct and reconstruct.
“And it is in our own little way to protect what you have built and even without telling us we have been doing that and we will continue to do that,” he said.
Ponle also commended the minister for his achievements in the area of infrastructure development and provision of other basic social amenities.
“Abuja has changed tremendously to my pleasant surprise and I salute your efforts in that regards. You have done so well that even the blind can see
“We think about you everyday in a positive manner because of what we see, what we witness and what we enjoy in the capital city through you,” he said.