There are growing concerns over the continued closure of the Abuja Millennium Park, an outdoor recreational center in the heart of the nation’s capital.
Sitting on 80 acres of land in Maitama highbrow area, the Millennium Park remains the largest public park in the Federal Capital Territory.
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Daily Trust Saturday reports that the facility, being managed by the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), was shut down during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic about two years ago and has since remained closed.
The continued closure of the park due to COVID-19 concerns despite federal government’s directive on minimal restriction has been worrisome to some residents.
Most of the fun seekers spoken to wondered why the park, which is an outdoor facility, would remain closed even when restrictions on indoor activities have been lifted.
Again, allegation is rife on how some officials violate the extant order by charging residents fees to use the open space opposite the park.
Some allege that the government might have sold parts of the park to private operators, though Daily Trust Saturday could not independently verify this claim.
But what seems unclear is the fact that none of the relevant officials of the FCTA involved in the closure of the park was willing to speak on why the facility has not been opened for use in the last two years.
Most of the officials spoken to by one of our correspondents declined comment on the issue.
When Daily Trust Saturday visited the park last week, our reporters observed that the facility, which used to be a beehive of spectacular activities during its heydays has now turned to a ghost of its former self as only a handful of mowers as well as few other guards manning the park were seen.
The streets leading to the park are also deserted.
However, despite its two-year closure by the FCT authorities, the park is still well maintained as the inner side is spotless and serene.
Fun seekers seek immediate reopening
Some fun-seekers residing in Abuja have expressed their angst on the continued closure of the park, stating that government denied the residents an arena to unwind and have fun once in a while.
Umar Abubakar, who resides in Wuse Zone 6, expressed his reservation on the closure of the park, saying that since its closure he no longer has an avenue to catch fun alongside his friends.
He said, “I like to hang out at the park with my friends but the restrictions of activity within the area thwarted my weekly schedules. In other climes, when you examine the situation, restrictions have been eased to a relative degree, so I urge the government in her magnanimity to review its policy and restore free movement. However, they can ensure strict compliance with the Covid-19 protocol,” he added.
Another resident of Abuja, Olorunsola Moyosoluwa, also faulted FCT authorities’ decision not to reopen the amusement centre despite easing the restrictions of COVID-19 almost two years ago.
She said, “I think it’s ridiculous that the park was refused to be reopened for over two years now by the authorities concerned. The COVID-19 excuse is no longer valid and it begs the question, ‘What is really going on?’
“The last time I went to the park was in November last year; and I cannot verify whether some officials charge fun seekers some stipends to use the open space opposite the park. I do hope the management of the park releases a statement reassuring their stakeholders to avoid business suicide,” she suggested.
Asked if she was allowed entry into the park then, she said no and she had to leave the vicinity disappointed because it had disrupted her plans, “and I had to look for an alternative quickly,” she added.
Bala Ado, who lives on the outskirts of Abuja but used to visit the park always with his family during festivities, said he lost a good amusement venue.
“It was a very good place for us to have good and quality family time. Regrettably, its closure since the COVID-19 pandemic struck had infringed on my recreation. I no longer have access to enter and have fun there with my family, especially during Sallah and other holidays,” he added.
He called on the FCT administration to consider reopening it as it can accommodate a huge number of fun-seekers.
Abba Biyu, a resident of Utako, queried the continued closure of the park. “I am lost as to why the Millennium Park is yet to be reopened. I relocated to Abuja after the lockdown. Before I came, I have seen on television how people go there with their loved ones during festivities or just during the weekends. So, I looked forward to seeing that beautiful place I had always seen on television.
“It is unfortunate that the place is yet to be reopened despite the fact that COVID-19 protocols have been relaxed and even the use face mask made optional.”
He appealed to the government to reopen the park so that he, as well as many others, yearning to go and relax there can have their wishes come true.
FCTA officials play hide and seek
Most of the relevant officials of the FCTA, who are directly or indirectly involved in the closure of the park have declined comments on the continued closure of the park, raising more questions on the decision of the Administration.
The Director, FCT Parks and Recreation Department, Hajiya Riskatu Abdul’aziz, who was the first official contacted, said the park was not under her management and therefore could not comment on the matter.
The director, who spoke on phone, directed one of our correspondents, to meet the chairman of the FCT Task Force on COVID-19, who should be able to explain why the park has not been reopened.
When contacted, the chairman of the Task Force, Attah Ikaro, declined comment on the continued closure of the park.
The Director of the Public Health Department of the FCTA, Dr. Saddiq Abdurrahman, also declined comment on the park and sent an SMS message that reads, ‘Apologies, kindly direct your inquiry to the Chair of Taskforce on COVID-19, thank you.’
His message was forwarded to the Taskforce chairman without response and subsequent calls put across to his mobile phone were not answered.
Similarly, SA Media to the FCT minister, Abubukar Sani, was not in office when one of our correspondents visited and a message sent to him on the issue was not replied neither did he pick a call put across to him.