‘This place is an eyesore…’
Lokoja residents want Kogi govt to renovate abandoned Obasanjo Square
THE abandoned Obasanjo Square in Lokoja is not giving a good lead to the tourism potentials of Lokoja, the Kogi State capital.
The square, which is strategically located, is also called Paparanda Square.
It was commissioned on October 26, 2000 by former President Obasanjo after whom the square was named by the first governor of Kogi State Prince Abubakar Audu.
Beautified and created as a playground for children by Audu, the project was his brain-child.
At the Paparanda roundabout, adjacent to the square, are heaps of refuse that are overtaking the stretch of road. Beggars also gather at the roundabout adjacent to the square that has almost become their permanent abode.
An environmentalist, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the present condition of the square is an eyesore to any passerby not to talk about potential visitors.
He said the eyesore was both disgusting and alarming and it could send wrong signals to first-time visitors that the confluence city is a hub of filth rather than a tourist destination.
And Lokoja residents want Kogi govt to renovate the square.
Every festive period the square used to be a meeting point for many residents and it was gathered that Audu as a Governor used to come to share in the fun in those days.
A fast food restaurant in the square was another tonic for fun seekers who would just dash in to assuage their hunger.
The square has since become a ghost of itself as miscreants and other hoodlums have turned the former fun spot into a smoking joint and a lavatory where human faeces litter everywhere.
Some of the residents who spoke with The Guardian expressed fear that if nothing was done very soon, many of them living around the square would not be able to enjoy the natural air as the faeces that litter the compound was polluting the air.
A resident, Mr. Okechukwu Daniel, told The Guardian that he voluntarily took it upon himself to work as a security man in the place because he did not know why government should abandon such a tourist attraction.
He said the GSM and phone dealers made the place lively while they were using the spot as a GSM village, but he did not know why government drove them away six months ago.
Recalling childhood memories, Mrs. Ebere Nwankwo said she grew up in Lokoja living with her parents who were traders and they used to take her and her siblings to the square to have fun.
She said the place can still be turned around to a picnic spot and children can even come and have fun there.
Mr. Patrick Ukwenya cautioned government over its attitude of abandoning good things which, if sustained, could even earn revenue for the State.
According to him, being an election year, the Governor should start working on the square so that it could boost his chances of returning to power.
Ordinarily, the capital city of Lokoja enjoys the advantage of being the town where the two great rivers- Niger and Benue- form a confluence.
It is also a meeting point for travellers from the North and South, as it provides access to over 16 states through Abuja the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
It equally provides navigation for citizens of many states and some countries that may want to explore the splendour of waterways travels through the confluence of the rivers.
The square would have added colour to the beauty of the city especially for potential visitors.
The Chief Technical Adviser on United Nations Habitat for Kogi State, Mr. Joe Alhassan, said the Obasanjo Square has not been abandoned.
His words: “The place is not lying fallow. The point is that it is one of the UN habitat projects that is being organized as an open space just like the Freedom Park in Lagos.”
“For some time now work has been going on in terms of developing the proper design for that spot. Kogi Poly students have come out with a design that will befit that square.”
He said a design has been selected based on the choice of the youths of Lokoja.
According to him, the UN Habitat has appointed an architect who will work on the open space.
“A prototype has been designed and very soon the architect would move to site. This is a gift from the UN Habitat for development in Lokoja metropolis.”
Alhassan further explained: “Early this month the architect came back to interact with the youths who did the design and we had to rub minds. It is something like participatory planning. They want to get everybody involved in the planning.”
“That is why the architect came to meet the youths behind the initial design so that they can reconcile their concept,” he added.
He revealed that it was the same architect that designed the Freedom Park in Lagos.
According to him, the open space would be ready by October because there would be some conversion of the building and a bit of landscaping. He expressed hope that, when work commences, those turning the place into an eyesore would have been dislodged.