By Umar Shuaibu
Parks development activities are essentially the responsibility of the public sector but being concession to private concern. It is more of philanthropic activity than commercial or revenue yielding. As part of the concession program, parks are now plotted, allocated and allowed to be developed by the private organizations under the supervision of the Parks and Recreations Department.
Other than open space sit outs and cubicles for light refreshments for entertainments of leisure, permitted uses for parks did not include so many abhorrent structures erected by many of the allottees that refuse to comply with developments guidelines. They don’t also include the unauthorized commercial structures, restaurants, worship centers, beer parlors or night club lounges now prevalent in many of the city parks. Rather than beautifying the city with green developments as parks are meant for, the unauthorized uses have tendency to destroying the aesthetics and constituting nuisance to residents and the general public.
The organizational structure of the Abuja Master Plan is tailored towards achieving a city-wide open space structure, based on a longitudinal parkway system internal to the city. Retention of the stream valley and watercourse network for both aesthetic and drainage purposes, and preservation of the surrounding escarpments of hills and the inselbergs, which jut up in the body of the Gwagwa plains and form the visual backdrop to the city and major focal points within the city.
It is important to note that the benefits of the Green developments include the improvement of quality of life or well-being of both the individual and the society. On the part of conservation, the U.S. Forest Service calculated that over a 50-year lifetime one tree generates $31,250 worth of oxygen, provides $62,000 worth of air pollution control, recycles $37,500 worth of water, and controls $31,250 worth of soil erosion. (Sherer, 2003). The Abuja Capital City was also expected to conserve as much as possible the natural and cultural environment of the territory as earlier mentioned.
Accordingly, in the land use budget for its development, out of the 25,658ha total area of the capital city, 8,435ha equivalent to 33% is budgeted for parks and open spaces. These uses include parks, rock out-crops, active recreations, gardens, monuments and malls. Thus, Abuja is to be a typical garden city as conceived by the International Planning Associates (IPA). The environmental benefits of green developments as a principle in planning of Abuja, emphasizes “environmental conservation” and “city beautification” meant to ensure the development a new city much better by far than many Africa cities. Its main objectives had to deal essentially with addressing the earlier mistakes of eliminating environmental issues in city planning.
These green areas provided for in the master plan, are categorized into developable greens and undevelopable greens. The developable greens are open spaces, recreational facilities in parks and gardens, outdoor games, and sports centers, playing fields recreational grounds, race courses, golf courses, polo grounds, public parks, which are segmented into a graduating manner as neighborhood parks, District Parks, Kukwaba National Park and ultimately Regional Parks located outside the FCC. The undevelopable greens include green stretches along stream valleys, river bed, flood Plains, hilly patches and some incidental open spaces. These are meant to be left vacant but maintained by the state as part of the 33% green spaces provision in the master plan.
Safeguarding this huge land resource proved to be a herculean task due to the frequent abuse of areas earmarked for green development in the land use plan in all the phases of the city development. Areas earmarked for parks are being desecrated for other uses, owners of plots adjoining parks encroach on the parks with impunity; peace and serenity of residents at night are threatened by loud musical noise that disturbs the comfort of residents at night.
In order to address these challenges the FCT produced and gazette the Abuja Park Regulations in 2005, FCT Parks Operating License, FCT Parks Guidelines and Design Manual and the 2019 FCT Park Policy. Section 4 of 2005 Park Regulations states that, “all parks shall operate within the hours of 8.00a.m. – 7p.m. daily, except where a special permit has been sought and obtained, upon a proper application to the Director Parks and Recreations, for an extension of its operating hours”.
Also Section 8 of the 2005 Regulations categorically states, “A person shall not in a park: create fracas or tumult; make a noise that is likely to disturb other persons; play football, baseball, hockey or golf; engage in any boisterous or tumultuous game or activity; engage in a game or activity that is likely to injure other persons or interfere with their reasonable enjoyment of the park; ride a bicycle, motorcycle, roller skate, roller blade, skate board or other fast propelled device, except on a park road or in an area designed and marked as being for that purpose by the director; consume an intoxicating beverage or any other drug that is likely to make a person lose control of himself”.
The promulgation of all these stated regulations predates the present administration, but short of properly enforced. What is only needed by the FCT Administration to ensure sanity in parks development activities is to enforce all these regulations to the letter.
Shuaibu is immediate past Coordinator, Abuja Metropolitan Management Council (AMMC)