Motor Park, in Nigeria parlance, is a place where passengers board vehicles to their various destinations. But a situation where such a place turns into an arena with so many goings-on, one may be forced to find another name for such a set up, just like the case of Wuse in Zone 5. Nick Udenta writes.
These are voices of three unkempt young boys of about 13 to 15 years of age. One may mistake this as those voices in the market. But this is not a market. It`s a car park or in Nigerian parlance, a motor-park or “garage” and the venue is Wuse Zone 5. The teenagers are struggling for patronage of a substance from Mr Anthony Ekpo ,a businessman, who was there only to board a bus back to his place in Kuje after a day`s work.
The motor-park is accessed through Duala Street in that same Zone 5 and behind it is Accra Street. In between the park and the street is a river and a non-functional garden (Abuja Family Park) with a football pitch. These are the operating route as well as the rallying point of the hoodlums.
In front of the park, after Duala Street, is Mombassa Street where you will find two federal civil service quarters, the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) quarters which is very close to the park and another one adjacent to Zone 6 bus stop by Golden Gate Hotel.
In between the two federal civil service quarters is the wuse shopping plaza through which one can access all these other streets and cross over to Wuse zone 2 through a footpath by the All Saints Anglican Church wuse zone five.
The activity of hoodlums in the motor-park and its surrounding has made live very uncomfortable for the residents of this area, especially those in Duala street and FCDA quarters. Miss Cathrine Egbujor is a banker living at number 27 Duala street. She says “This motor-park constitutes a very serious problem here. I come back from work in the night so I can`t say what exactly happens here during the day but whenever it`s dark people avoid this road and for us who are residents, we dare not keep our gates open once it`s dark.” She says most of the people living around the area have had one ugly encounter with these hoodlums who find place a sanctuary in the park.
The outcry of the residents on many occasions has led to the FCT authority storming the park but has always received a lot of resistance from these boys. The last was on the 14th February this year when the environmental protection task force met a stiff opposition from the boys who destroyed about four of their vehicles while the task force raised down all the make-shift houses in the park and some of the boys arrested.
From Accra to Duala down to Mombassa Street it`s always tales of bitter experience. Accounts of how women are raped, cars stolen, mobile phones snatched is what beholds your ears. A resident of Duala Street who refused to give her names says number 27 Duala Street used to be a hotel (Rosy Hotel) but the activity of hoodlums within the area forced the owner to convert it to residential building. According to the lady, “Sometimes in the night you will hear, help! help!! Thief! Thief!!, screens and cries around the motor-park.
Prince Anthony resides in one of the Flats at FCDA quarters said, “My brother, this place is like hell. The environment is no longer conducive to bring up children. Sometimes my children tend to mimic these conductors by shouting Kuje! kuje! ,Gwagwalada! , Lugbe! One chance!” He emphasises that this can have adverse effect on the upbringing of a child. “I don`t need to tell you about the rate at which they rob us here or the rampant abuse of this compounds with condoms. That`s why we have to begin to wall the surrounding to see if we can have peace.”
Prince Tony blamed FCDA and the police for the plight of the resident, saying that “ when the Anglican Church who are supposed to be the owners of the land, were in charge, before FCTA came and converted it into a motor-park, things like that was not happening.”He says, those hoodlums claim they settle both FCDA authority and the police to enable them remain there.
Catholics living at Wuse Zone 5 and Zone 6 who may want to go to morning mass at Holy Rosary Catholic Church, Wuse Zone 2, through the footpath by the All Saints Anglican church are not spared either. According to one of the priest in the parish, Rev Fr Thomas Asen, during announcement in the church recently urged members to keep off the area, adding “Please avoid going through that path once it is night.” The priest`s warning may have come as a result of incessant harassment of parishioners along that path.
Meanwhile, the 14th February encounter with the hoodlums forced the Abuja Environmental Management Agency to seal off the place for about one month. The reason given by the agency is based on security. According to Mr Uche Agbanusi, deputy director and head of department of monitoring and enforcement, “The bus drivers can`t control the thugs in this park. There`s nothing they don`t sale here. Indian hemps, all manner of drugs and even guns are sold here”. Uche stressed that the portion is supposed to be a green area but out of “magnanimity” they gave it to bus drivers.
Last week, however, an agreement was reached among the National Union for Road Transport Workers (NURTW), the umbrella body in charge of the bus drivers, and Abuja Metropolitan Management Agency (AMMA) and the Abuja environmental Agency to open up the place once again. Part of the condition given, according to Mr Agbanusi, is that NURTW must secure the motor-park and should not allow hoodlums to take over the place. Also they should also not allow sales to take place in the adjoining roads.
“We are going to put the gate in order and fence the boundary between the park and the river. Anyone one that offends we beat the person and hand him over to SAS. The gate will be open from 6am to 6pm everyday and we are going to request for a police post, while we have constituted a task force to help catch offenders.” This is the voice of Mr Osaro Uwadia, one of the executives of the (NURTW) at the motor-park while answering questions on how they intend to keep to agreement. In a reaction to the sales still going on the road, Mr Uwadia says it`s not within their power to chase away those traders as, “They will declare war against us.”
As the truce last, the residents of the area are hoping that there may be a lasting solution to the issue. Mr James Okeke who has been occupying one of the flats in the FCDA quarters since the past fifteen years says “The only way out is for them to remove the motor-park from there. Because we Africans don`t live in the market and you know such place can constitute a threat to the nation`s security especially now the country`s unity seems to be hanging on the balance.” He further asks passengers to "shine" their eyes while moving around the motor-park.