Culture and Lifestyle

Restructuring The Metropolis With A Scenic Park

The Magodo Scenic Park is an idea of a private contractor who has received the approval of the Lagos State Parks and Gardens Agency, LASPARK, an arm of the Lagos State Ministry of Environment. The idea to beautify and manage a park.

The proposed scenic park is located on the stretch near CMD Road. The land which accommodated some car dealers, mechanics, food sellers and transport company once had the presence of the Lagos Ministry of Transportation. The left side of the stretch of the CMD Road is dotted with office blocks such as the EFCC office, private business office spaces, bank buildings such as those housing commercial banks like First Bank, EcoBank, Guaranty Trust Bank, Polaris Bank and Zenith Bank and their respective ATM booths. To be sighted on the right side is the proposed Magodo Scenic Park. On the far right of the garden is the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. The banners of the proposed park show that the contract had already been awarded to park managers, The Surveillant, and they are expected to complete the project in 40days. It has been up to two weeks since our reporter has continued to follow this development. The banner and the mowing of the stretch of open but narrow field signifies the presence of The Surveillant Fire LTD. The banner made an impression of the proposed facilities to be made available to the public. The Magodo Scenic Park will have a car park, a recreational park, a horticultural garden, a baseball court, and an automobile service centre.

Many residents have expressed the concern that if the proposed scenic park is not well secured and maintained, it may be used as ground for hoodlums, armed robbers, thieves, kidnappers and arsonists who may find easy escape through the Lagos-Ibadan expressway or through CMD-Ikosi Road, after snatching monies, vehicles and valuables in the park. The CMD Road is an important road for residents of Ikosi-Ketu, Shangisha, and Magodo residents. It is also an important route to Ketu which could lead to Oshodi and Mile 2 areas, amongst others. We spoke to our contact who provided us with the details of a government official as well as the details of Adetoun Ibilola Popoola, the General Manager of LASPARK. The LASPARK, according to the Lagos State Government website, is set to provide core services like park management, tree planting and tree management, horticultural research, landscaping and design, park management services and environmental compliance monitoring visits. LASPARK is saddled to create a greener and healthier Lagos, through the creation of a safe and healthy State. The agency is driven to establish functional parks, and recreational centres in line with international best practices.

We spoke to the GM of LASPARK who told us she would not be able to speak on the project. She directed us to Ms Titilayo Ajirotutu, a Public Affairs official of the LASPARK, who was willing to speak extensively on the subject. Ajirotutu was unable to confirm whether the stretch of the CMD Road had been contracted as at the time of our telephone conversation. Although all the Lagos State officials we spoke to engaged us with professional decorum, Ms Ajirotutu evaded all our questions, repeating that there was a process on the adoption of spaces belonging to the state government.

‘There is a process, the Lagos State Government would advertise the space, then a private contractor would tender his interest for the space. The private contractor will present a proposal which will go through scrutiny and then would be approved given the fact that the firm has proven to deliver such services.’

She explained that the Lagos State Government was reclaiming its spaces, advertising them and putting them up for ‘adoption’ so that private companies in the environment industry can beautify and manage it. She said that Lagos State had to take this sweeping action because former adoption contracts were not used for the purpose it was meant for. ‘Former contractors have not been faithful to the agreement we signed with them. They used the space for car wash, car dealership and mechanic workshop such as you see on that stretch of the CMD Road you mentioned. Car dealers and others are not supposed to be there. They should go and acquire their own property and sell on their own property,’ she said in a telephone conversation.

Ajirotutu also added that a lot of factors are considered when they give such spaces to a private company. ‘I will have to confirm whether that stretch at CMD Road has been adopted by a private company.’ She assured that factors such as expertise in maintenance and environmental standards are part of the yardstick used in giving approvals for such a project. ‘We are very strict on maintenance and security around our parks.’ When asked her about the state of the Lagos State Park in Ojota and other areas of the state, she replied that the Gani Fawehimi Park and the Abiola Garden Park in Ojota are managed by LASPARK and are well maintained. She also claimed that given the regular monitoring of other parks by LASPARK officials, all LASPARK spaces under Public-Private Partnerships are also monitored in order to abide by the set environmental maintenance standards.

As at the time of report, we were able to confirm that the name of the company of the firm that may have adopted the space was The Surveillant. The banners at the site neither showed the firm’s address, email address nor did it provide any website. It provided a phone number for enquiries but calls were not picked. After we sent a text message to the number asking for their audience concerning the project, we decided to do an online search to ascertain the company and to engage them on some of the lingering questions from the public. Our online search provided a corporate company, The Surveillant Fire LTD, based in Shangisha, Magodo, Lagos. It also provided Surveillant Export Nigeria Limited, based in Lagos Island, and Surveillant Fire Academy, Magodo, Lagos; all registered companies under the Corporate Affairs Commission. However, the designated number on the banner on site at CMD Road did not reflect on any of their website or on online web directories. None of these companies have anything, by their name, to do with providing a scenic garden, managing the environment and providing solutions and management for air, water and waste compliance.

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A further online search showed that the triad of Surveillant Fire LTD, Surveillant Fire Academy, and Surveillant Export are extensions or affiliates to one another, as they all share the same addresses in Magodo and in Lagos Island.

Our team of reporters finally got around to speak with Jumade Adejola of the Surveillant Fire Academy and the project manager of the Magodo Scenic Park, who clarified that the firm used to be into export business but have so far closed down their export operations. They admitted that they are the same ones who run the Surveillant Academy.

However, he said that they had long closed operations on the Export arm. They informed us that they are the self-same contractors handling the Magodo Scenic Park. ‘We are into a few other businesses apart from fire services and safety trainings, but we have long closed down on our export business.’ He clarified further on the safety of the proposed area, ‘If you check the banner, you will see that there is going to be a car park and other recreational infrastructure there. So, there is going to be a perimeter fence in the plan. The fence will block the park from the express road. When we see that it needs reinforcement, we will reinforce it.’ We tried to ask about the intricacies of due process and he said ‘I am not in charge of giving you information on how or whether we were qualified for it. We got the contract; that information should be given to you by LASPARK, the bit of information that I will provide is on the work we are doing there.’

Jumade Adeola said that although cars parked at the scenic would be at ‘owners’ risk’, the Lagos State Government had already provided the needed security for the area; therefore, there was no other plans put in place to secure anyone’s vehicles except the customary police patrols. ‘We are not providing any extraordinary security to the park, even the cars parked in front of the banks are at ‘owners’ risk.’ It will be a gated park like other LASPARK gardens and parks.

Then we asked about the planned maintenance processes, but Adejola deflected the question by asking, ‘Do you think there will be a project where there will not be a maintenance plan!’ Jumade Adejola further explained: ‘I appreciate what you are doing as journalist, you are trying to do an investigation or a probe, but I am wondering why you are not focusing on the advantages that the park will bring to the people living on CMD Road. This park will help to decongest the area. It will provide recreational facilities to people living in the area so that they can rest and enjoy with their families. It will provide some ambience and fulfil the mandate of the Lagos State Government, which is to provide recreational spaces in a mega-city. This is what we are trying to provide through a public-private partnership,’ he said.

On when the project was commissioned and when it would be due for completion, we did not get a response, as at the time of engaging him. In our effort to reach Ms Titi Ajorututu, Public Affairs officer of the Lagos State Park to determine whether due process was followed in approving the park, we did not get any response as she did not answer her calls at the time of this report.

Femi Morgan

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