BY OLASUNKANMI AKONI
…It’s not true — Operator
THE notoriety synonymous with Oshodi and environs is gradually returning, as street urchins and social miscreants, popularly known as “Area Boys,” have returned en-masse, terrorizing and robbing passers-by and fund seekers at the recreation park, opposite the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA, headquarters.
The Heritage Recreational Park, Oshodi, is being run by a private initiative, through the Public, Private Partnership, PPP, programme of the state government. The operators, who charge fees for the usage of the park, have in response to the development disagreed that the place is unsafe.
MRS. Ifeoma Ebele, a resident of the area who complained about the security situation in the park, narrated: “Earlier in the year, I took my children for an outing at the park. We had a lot of fun and we were so carried away that we left the place late. Unknowingly some miscreants — two young boys — who had targeted us, suddenly emerged from nowhere and snatched my bag containing my valuables and some cash. It was a terrible experience.
“Initially, when the park was thrown open for public use, it was a spectacle to behold as children, youths and sometimes adults found solace in the park to catch some fun or just relax. Not too long, the area boys started invading the place, extorting money from the people and when it is dark, they rob them at gun point.
“In the day time, some of these miscreants could be seen openly smoking marijuana, close to the garden without any fear of arrest from law enforcement agents. What is worrisome is the fact that the policemen at the police post erected not far from the park are helpless. Some of them were accused of aiding and abetting some of the criminals in perpetrating their heinous acts.”
When Megacity visited the park, last weekend, it was under lock and key, the allegation was apparent as no visitor was found there on a public holiday.
It would be recalled that 84 area boys were recently arrested by Lagos State Task-force on Environmental and Special Offenses in the vicinity. Among those arrested were 30 under-aged boys who were picked-up while sleeping in the shanties located under the bridges in the area.
Some citizens, who have encountered the area boys, had repeatedly sent appeals to the state government to intervene by drafting a permanent special security squad there to provide adequate protection for residents and fun seekers at the place.
Operator debunks allegation
When contacted, Mr. Emeka Patrick, manager, Clear Edge Media Limited, operator of the Heritage Park, Oshodi, debunked the insecurity claim, saying; “It is not true whatsoever. This is strange to me. I think it is the imagination of whomever is making this allegation. It is not true that the Heritage Park is unsafe. It is very safe to members of the public; even the policemen around us can attest to this fact through their record.
“Since the inception of the park, the police station nearby has had about three divisional police officers, DPOs and all of them can say the truth: the park has no criminal records. The police station around us provides necessary and adequate protection for our clients and on no occasion have we received complaints of harassment.
“Heritage Park is open to members of the public at affordable fees with maximum security is guaranteed. I challenge all to come around and have a feel of the wonders and see if the claim is true or not. I urge you to disregard the claim because it is not true.”
Govt’s position: A source from the state Ministry of the Environment said that the park was not under the control of the state government and denied any knowledge of threats of area boys in the area.
He suggested that the management of the park knows what to do if they were being faced with miscreants’ challenge, as they could always approach the law enforcement agencies to lodge their complaints or better still hire a private security outfit to provide the needed security.
The park, situated on a reclaimed area opposite LASTMA Yard, was fashioned into a beautiful recreational garden park, meant for relaxation.
Some of the facilities at the park include a playground for children fitted with various kits to play around, a lush green area and benches for relaxation among others.