By Umar Shuaibu
Aside residential, the most ubiquitous land use in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) City, Abuja, is greening, with parks and open spaces, protective forests, rock out crops, protected water courses and recreations constituting 33 per cent of the total land use budget. This translates to 8,435ha out of the 25,658ha total area of the capital city.
Parks and gardens can serve several purposes: aesthetic, recreational, act as a reserve for local wildlife, a play area for children or retreat for adults, among others. As a national capital city, improving the visual quality of Abuja should be a national goal, thus the greening the city through tree planting with both local and assorted species is a very important objective for achieving the goal.
Park development activities were initially and wholly undertaken by the public sector. It was considered enormous due to the size of the land citywide, and the resources involved, hence later concessioned to the private sector, using the Park and Recreation Department of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) as the conduit, however, not without a law to guide the implementation for many reasons. One important point to emphasise to all those that got the FCT Park development allocation is that it is a misconception to think that parks are allocated for commercial investments or profits. The fact is that park development ventures are not necessarily meant to be for profit, but more of philanthropic activities, hence, despite being privately developed, it must be made accessible to all citizens desirous of refreshment and recreation as a public facility. Thus the complaints from the beneficiaries of the allocation of not reaping direct financial benefits of their investments are misplaced.
In our episode seven weeks ago captioned: “Citywide Parks Development Challenges”, some of the non-acceptable uses were discussed. For more understanding of this vital aspect of the city development more needs to be highlighted. The documents of reference were Abuja Park Regulations 2005, 2019 FCT Park Policy, 2019 FCT Parks Operating License and the 2019 FCT Parks Guidelines and Design Manual.
Section 1.13.0 of the 2019 FCT Guidelines and Design Manual explains the acceptable and non-acceptable activities in FCT parks. “Acceptable activities in FCT Parks are; recreation, amusement and leisure specified in the Abuja Parks Regulations 2005, 2019 FCT Parks Policy, Parks Guidelines and Manual and Operating Licence”. Also, “Non-acceptable activities in FCT Parks are; non-recreation, illicit and other illegal activities proscribed by the subsisting Abuja Parks Regulations 2005 and Laws of Government”.
For more clarification, 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 devices, 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”. Section 8 (i) specifically states that a person shall not in a park “sell or offer for sale newspapers, merchandise, food drink or other articles or materials or engage in any other commercial activity, except by permit”.
On the prevention of indecent conduct, Section 9 (1) and (2) states, “A person shall not urinate or defecate in a park other than in designated places” and “No person shall engage in the act of sexual intercourse or other sexual acts or indecent or obscene acts or sexual harassment in parks or recreational sites”. It is also important to note that in line with the 2019 FCT Park Policy, all Park Operators in the FCT must have Park Operating Licence to enable their operation. It is renewable every year subject to performance and payment of the proscribed renewal fees.
All allotees that violate any of the condition of the Licence or provisions and all the stated laws above, shall be considered revoked without any compensation from the FCTA. Other than the revocation of the licences Section 21 of the 2005 Regulation, provides for fine and imprisonment for contravention of the guidelines. Depending on the gravity of contravention the administration can out rightly revoke the park allocation. These instruments for enforcement by the FCTA were made in 2019. It is expected that at its full implementation, the violation of park uses by all park allotees shall be a thing of the past.
Shuaibu is immediate past Coordinator, Abuja Metropolitan Management Council (AMMC)