By Kingsley Adegboye & Olasunkanmi Akoni
It was jubilation and joy without bounds for residents of Kernel, Idita, Itolo, Aibu and Animashaun streets in Surulere area of Lagos metropolis last week as an abandoned Recreation site at Kernel Street recently developed into a state-of-the-art recreation park by the Lagos State Government was handed over to the residents of the community.
The residents who could not hide their joy over the new development in their area, poured encomiums on Governor Babatunde Fashola and his administration for summoning up the courage to do what past administrations in the state couldÂ not do because of some powerful and influential residents in the community who had encroached on the parcel of land earmarked in the master plan of Surulere by the defunct LEDB as a recreation park.
To them, the development of the facility with provisions for indoor games such as lawn tennis, table tennis, volley ball and football pitch for kids as well as administration office and a hall for meetings, will impact positively on the youths in the area.
However, in a twist of events the supposedly elated residents also frantically begged Governor Fashola to as a matter of urgency relocate a motel built beside the newly constructed and commissioned recreation park meant for mothers and their children.
They complained that the continued stay of the Motel in the area will consequently impact negatively on the young people who would be using the park. According to some residents who preferred anonymity, the motel (name withheld) belongs to a powerful and influential member of the society.
But there was no stopping the residentsâ€™ joy at having the park commissioned.Â Prince E. Ogunoye, a resident of the area and retired civil servant from the Lagos State Government, said he designed the master plan of Surulere in 1965 while a town planner with LEDB, pointing out that the Kernel Recreation Park was earmarked in the maserplan. He added that rather than the place being developed into a park, the site was left fallow and people began to encroach on it.
Commending the effort of the present administration in actualising the dream of LEDB by making Kernel StreetÂ Recreation Park a reality, the octogenarian said it was the first time he would see a parcel of land which was taken over by some people being recovered and turned into recreation park, stressing that the encroachment into the land was by civilians while the motel which is standing on part of the land was built by some military men.
Mrs. Nana Aishatu Osobase, a resident of Kernel Street and a member of the nine-member committee constituted by the state government to manage the affairs of the park recalled with nostalgia the days children of the street, includingÂ those of Governor Fashola who was a resident of the area before he became governor, used to play football on the street because there was no place designated for that purpose.
Thanking the Governor for making the project a reality, Mrs. Osobase pointed out that he had always had the interest of turning the abandoned site into aÂ state-of-the-art recreation park..
In his address, Fashola noted that from the healthcare programmes of the state such as immunisation of children against polio and other communicable diseases that affect children, to the resuscitation of voluntary social clubs in the stateâ€™s schools such as Boys Scout, Boys Brigade, Girls Guide, the state has put smiles on the faces of mothers by making the healthcare of their children and the development of their minds and values the concern of the government.
Fashola who added that more women and children-friendly programmes will be completed for the benefit of the people, expressed his gratitude to Asiwaju Bola Tinubu who was instrumental in recovering the parcel of land, pointing out that those who were familiar withÂ it will recollect that the place which was earmarked in the LEDB master plan for Surulere as a recreation park for the residents was heavily encroached on and abused.
Explaining that the land was swampy, heavy pond and characterised by overgrown vegetation, silt deposit, scrap metals and the rest, he said: â€œToday, that eyesore of an area has been transformed and the Kernel Street Recreation Park is the beauty we now behold. It has joined the league of open spaces that have been landscaped and beautified to add to the aesthetics of our environment and contribute to the fight against global warming.
â€œI felt a sense of failure as a parent when I watched my children play football in their bedrooms simply because we had failed as a generation to provide for them what we enjoyed and took for granted as children. I resolved to do something about it and after ascertaining that this land was earlier designated as a park, I raised a memorandum to Governor Tinubu as Chief of Staff then, praying for an approval to revert it to its original use, which he graciously approved.
On behalf of children who will experience full mind and bodily development by using this park I thank you profoundly for that most important approval.
I must of course make a very impassioned plea that this park is not for revenue generation purposes. It is a recreation park for children and residents and neighboursâ€.
Speaking earlier, the State Commissioner for Environment, Dr. Muiz Banire said the park will not only promote good health but will also lead to higher productivity and cause a ripple effect on the economy, adding that the reclamation of the space will also provide enhanced security to the residents of the area.