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Enugu eyes tourism revenue, moves to recover parks

By Lawrence Njoku, Enugu
04 December 2021   |   4:11 am
In Enugu, one thing that is not in short supply is the existence of recreational parks. They are strategically located such that if well managed could serve as alternative source of revenue as well as boost the state’s tourism potentials.

Ubaka Park, Agbani Road, Enugu

In Enugu, one thing that is not in short supply is the existence of recreational parks. They are strategically located such that if well managed could serve as alternative source of revenue as well as boost the state’s tourism potentials.

But these parks scattered here and there have been neglected, sold to business operators or encroached on by land speculators among others.

These recreational parks include, Eze Park, Onwudiwe Park, Ngwo Park, all located in Uwani, Enugu. There is also the Unity Park on Independence layout, Nnaji Park in new Haven; Ude Ubaka Park at Agbani Road; Murtala Muhammed Park at New Market Area and Ejindu Park at Coal Camp.

The Guardian gathered that in their heir days, these parks were a source of attraction as they were devoid of the usual chaotic nature associated with urban life.

“Residents who wanted to enjoy nature found them worthy. They move into them with their families, play around the facilities and go home. Some go there to study and enjoy the natural air supplied by the trees among others. They were well kept and government was making money. The little token charged was being used to maintain the place,” Mr Okeke Chigbu, a resident of the state who lives at Eze Street told The Guardian.

A visit to these recreational parks revealed that they have, however, been turned into other purposes and activities ranging from drinking spots, shops, mechanic workshops, church buildings among others

Over the years, some of them have become safe haven for criminals who use them to hatch all manner of criminal activities in the state. For instance, at the Ude Ubaka Park, on Agbani Road, the vast area of land has been taken over by illegal occupants who converted it into all manner of activities.

Apart from a three-storey building fully occupied by tenants, no fewer than six churches and other worship centers have been erected in the premises. There are also mechanics, welders and carpentry workshops, shops, and other small-scale businesses thriving within the premises. Part of the perimeter walls had fallen apart while the original access road into the place has been changed.

Those who have built permanent structures, especially church buildings in the place, claimed that the owner of a three-storey building in the compound leased it to them. They gave his name as Duke and Gold, saying he resides overseas. Others, however, claimed they normally pay monthly to continue to retain their tenancy.

At the Ejindu Park, Coal Camp, the place is dilapidated. It was gathered that the state government recently directed it’s squatters to quit as it was ready to remodel the park to serve its original needs.

To make the occupants agree to the quit, government was said to have promised to relocate them and their businesses.

But The Guardian discovered that though the occupants had vacated, most of the perimeter walls have carved in. Two separate buildings put up near the entrance gate were still standing with occupants. The buildings encroached into the premises of the park.

Meanwhile, grasses overwhelm Eze and Onwudiwe parks, which were recently recovered by the state government and walled to starve off encroachment. Parts of the premises have been converted to emergency toilets. The state government, however, is said to have mobilised workers to clear the premises to enable work commence.

The Murtala Muhammed Park is reportedly leased to a telecommunication firm by the state government with some buildings now being developed on the land.

The Igwe Nnaji Park in New Haven lies in ruins. Unlike others that were fenced, this park is a thoroughfare for the users in the area.

Investigation by The Guardian revealed that the failure of the previous administrations to “see the potentials in recreational parks,” led to their abandonment.

It was gathered that officials of previous administrations leased some of the parks out to private individuals. Officials of local councils where these parks are domiciled collect revenues from the business operators.

Since these parks were either abandoned or converted to other activities, finding where to catch fun for families in the state became a problem.

It was in attempt to solve this challenge that Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi last year remodeled the Unity Park at Independence Layout Enugu and appointed managers for the place. The park, which has since become a beehive of activities following the number of persons that visit it daily, has elevated tourism in the state.

Apparently to return the sense of conviviality and natural appeal within the growing population of the state, the governor last Monday visited the recreational parks, where he expressed displeasure with the level of encroachment that had befallen the facilities.

He insisted that his government was desirous of restoring the parks to their original purpose, stressing that the state was fast losing its value by the activities of certain individuals who move into public property to erect structures and businesses

Ugwuanyi who could not condone the level of distortion had told the occupants that the “land belongs to the government as serve as recreational park”, adding that “we will return it to the original purpose so begin to relocate your businesses”.

He reckoned that Enugu was a prime state, stressing that it should not only “be seen as such, it should maintain those features that elevated it to such height”.

He set a timeline of June next year for the recreational parks to become operational, stressing that it would not only add to the revenue of the state but creates job as well.