Abuja Residents Tackle FCT Minister Over 6pm Closure Of Recreation Parks, Activists, Lawyers Fault Policy

Residents of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, have vowed to resist the enforcement of the directive by the FCT Minister, Mohammed Bello, that recreational parks  should close by 7pm amid plans to also ban sale of alcoholic and beverages in parks and gardens in the FCT.

They described the policy as satanic, barbaric and an attempt to curtail constitutionally guaranteed freedom of movement and association of Nigerians.

Some of the residents and owners of recreation centres, in a letter to the minister, reminded him that Nigeria was a democratic society and such policy was an exercise in nullity and exercise in futility.

In a letter written through their lawyer, Ifeanyi Remy Agu “Re Suit No: CV/408/2008: Barrister (Mrs) Amanda Pam (Proprietor Suez Garden) & 60 Others -Plaintiffs Vs Hon Minister FCT Defendant”, the group of residents also described the enforcement of 6pm closing hour by the FCTA as improper.
They called on the minister to uphold the rule of law, call his aides to order and stop the enforcement of the closure of parks and gardens by 7pm in the Federal Capital Territory.

The letter stated, “As solicitors to the plaintiffs in the above-stated suit pending before the FCT High Court, we draw your attention to the threatened enforcement of 6pm closing hour by the proprietor of gardens in the FCT by your Senior Special Assistant on Monitoring and Enforcement, Ikharo Attah, whose action is sub-judice of the pending cases before the court.
“Suffice it to say that we live in a democratic society where rule of law prevails against personal desires and brigandage of public servants.
“The terms of settlements in the above matter have been ordered to be filed by the Honorable court after the parties agreed in terms and principles” he added.

Agu noted that “our clients received with the greatest shock the threatened enforcement by the SSA against the claimants. Sir as a Minister in the temple of justice, we appeal to you to use your good office to call the SSA to order more especially as the case is before a court of law and the parties have agreed in principles.”
A human rights activist, Deji Adeyanju who spoke to SaharaReporters faulted the planned restriction saying it was affront on the rights of Nigerians as enshrined in the Section 40 of 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria.

He berated the Minister for coming under the guise of proviso of omnibus section 45 to justify the action.

Adeyanju said, “This restriction by the FCT Minister on parks and gardens to close at 7pm is a fundamental breach of that right to freely move and interact within the Nigeria which is constitutionally guaranteed in line with Section 40 of the constitution. I am yet to see how in a secular state, what is the modu operandi of the guidelines?
“In line with section 40 and other decisions of various court and plethora cases in the country affirming that citizens have the right to freely move and associate in any part of the country.
“I do not see how this will augur well for the prosperity, unity and peace of the country.”
Another human rights activist and Executive Director, Adopt A Goal Initiative, Dare Ariyo-Atoye asked the National Assembly to immediately invite the FCT Minister for questioning on what informed his Taliban-like policy and whether he had the power to alter the business life of the FCT without recourse to the people and the Parliament.

“We are unaware of any breakdown in law and order in the FCT to warrant a curfew, and if there is no such security issue, the Minister must never be allowed to alter our business life. Is the Minister offering a tax rebate and adopting some kind of measures to help the owners of these gardens who essentially generate their revenue and income between the hours of 5pm and 11pm?”

Also a human rights lawyer, Frank Tietie described the policy as barbaric and attempt to curtail constitutionally guaranteed freedoms to freely move and associate in Nigeria.

According to him, recreational parks where persons relax and often socialise by eating grills and taking choice drinks, including alcoholic beverages have not in any way contributed to the gross insecurity currently cascading the larger part of the Nigerian landscape.

“These parks are the main visible signs of nightlife in the Federal Capital City and their peak periods usually begin from 7 pm to past midnight. They serve as the vestiges of freedom and getaways from the cauldron of pressures in living in the Nigerian society that is largely misgoverned by selfish politicians who seek their own good and demonstrated a lack of ingenious ideas to improve the life of the people.

“Only a sadistic administration that is bent on spreading misery will make a policy that will hamper what legitimately brings happiness to the majority of people living in the FCT. Except for a hidden agenda, there are no verifiable mischiefs to be prevented when recreational parks are required to be closed at the time of the day when their services are needed the most.”
He therefore called on the Minister to desist from such totalitarian tendencies that seek to control people’s lives.
“A responsible government should work assiduously to provide enough security for citizens to freely move and associate at any time of the day. This recent policy of the FCTA is plainly an admission of irresponsibility on the part of the government to provide security,” he added.

Sahara Reporters