From Aloysius Attah, Onitsha
Obollo Afor Trailer Park, along the 9th Mile-Nsukka-Obollo Afor-Makurdi highway, presents different shades and services for different persons.
To some, it is a park for vehicles and for drivers to unwind, but to some others, it is a safe haven to indulge in sins of the flesh and other vices. To others, it is a dumping ground for different waste products.
Known as Audu Kwality Park and established by the traditional ruler of Amala Egazi community, Udenu Local Government Area, Enugu State, Igwe Patrick Eze, alias Alhaji Waziri, in 2018, the place was conceived with the aim of decongesting the Obollo Afor Market and its environs. It was also intended to eradicate dangerous roadside parking by trailer drivers heading towards different parts of the North.
The Audu Kwality Park was equally intended as a place of rest for trailer drivers and to service or repair their vehicles before continuing their journey.
However, findings by the reporter have shown that the aim of setting up the park is being eroded by other vices. Instead of parking their vehicles inside the main park, some of the drivers prefer to park along the highway.
Aside from damaging the median on the road with the weight of their heavy-duty vehicles, the trucks often parked in scattered rows along both sides of the highway now provide a big shield for all manner of lawlessness to thrive, including environmental degradation and immorality.
The reporter, who spent several evenings within the area, observed many things happening in quick succession.
While the long vehicles have damaged large portions of the asphalt expressway, giving way for swampy and muddy craters whenever it rained, dust and all manner of hazy atmosphere take charge during the dry season.
With a flurry of commercial activities in the area, the scenes were chaotic and ghetto-like, without any control or direction.
While some Hausa women operated makeshift restaurants, others made roadside fires where they fried masa with young Hausa Okada riders thronging their spots for cheap dinner. On another side were roadside tyre repairers (vulcanisers) and mechanics. They pumped and repaired tyres for the trailer drivers, thereby encroaching on the main road. Commuters have to jostlefor space to navigate their way between the vulcanisers and their pumping machines making a hell of a noise.
There are also medicine stores selling cheap drugs, including burantashi and other aphrodisiacs displayed openly on the shelves.
A few metres away from the stores is a secluded corner, which serves as a safe haven for Indian hemp smokers. The boys who hang around some blocks within the area light up their rizla and ganja, and smoke away as if their whole world depended on the act.
With thick smoke puffing out of their mouths, the marijuana stench rent the air while some women of easy virtue also loitered near looking for patronage.
In this arena, it is a free world, as no one cares what the other person is doing. Some of the hemp smokers also engage in games like Whot and gambling.
The reporter was surprised to discover that there were many unoccupied spaces for vehicles to park inside the park, but most of the drivers preferred to park along the major road, causing obstruction and accidents.
There was also a mosque inside and a hotel, though both remained scanty for the three nights the reporter visited. Heaps of empty cans and plastic bottles competed with other garbage on both sides of the road. Burnt debris also occupied large spaces. The whole environment was an eyesore.
A commercial cyclist who gave his name as Ekene Omeh, told the reporter that he usually brought some customers from the Obollo Afor-Enugu Ezike junction to the place most evenings to unwind.
Haladu, another cyclist from the North, who conveyed the reporter to Iheaka, disclosed during a conversation that they mostly flocked around the area because they had the opportunity of eating their various native dishes from the food vendors in the park, who were also northerners.
A greater drama unfolded when the reporter eventually called the park proprietor, Eze, on phone to know the actual situation of things in the park.
The traditional ruler and businessman took offence after the reporter’s introduction and spoke harshly.
He interrogated the reporter to know whether he was sent on a mission to destroy his (Waziri’s) business but when the reporter told him that he just wanted to do a story based on the curious eyes of a journalist on the happenings in the society, he never believed.
He threatened to deal with the reporter if any negative story was written against him or the parkm querying why the reporter chose to come to the park to do a story instead of other parks of the same kind in different parts of Nigeria.
Eze said: “So, it is only in Obollo Trailer Park that you saw anomalies to report? Haven’t you gone to Umunede, Lokpanta, Ugwuoba, Aviele in Benue State. Don’t try any rubbish with me or I deal with you.
“Why can’t you report Gwagwalada while going to Abuja. You people should be careful with me or I deal with you. You people are wicked. You only pull your people down at home but you don’t talk of others outside. You want to blackmail somebody. Come and I will take the responsibility of taking you to other parks in Nigeria so that you will find out if our own is different.”
After threatening the reporter and discovering that the reporter was unmoved by his intimidation, Ezel later sent a written response to the reporter’s WhatsApp number some days later. Part of his response reads:
“At a point, it was clear that the roadside was no longer conducive for these heavy duty vehicles because they constitute nuisance with attendant ills of crime, accident, smoke and drunk addicts and is being turned to refuse dump.
“Sometimes drivers abandon their trucks on the roadside for weeks or even months, so the road became more of a nuisance den harboring waste that constituted serious obstruction to free movement of vehicles. It was consequent upon the ugly scene as seen above that Igwe Waziri deemed it right enough to establish a big trailer park capable to contain as many trailers as possible at the outskirts of Obollo Afor town.
“As the proprietor/CEO, Igwe Waziri got all the necessary approvals from appropriate government quarters to establish the park. It is interesting to reveal that the park has all necessary facilities of a modern motor park which includes running pipe-borne water, a decent hotel, a large warehouse, power generation engine, fire service equipment and a mosque where drivers of Moslem extraction can go in and pray to Allah.
“The mosque was commissioned by Emir of Lafia. To ensure that the park is crime-free, well-trained vigilance boys as security task force was put in place to provide 24-hour security service under the supervision of Nigeria Police Obollo Afor Divisional Headquarters. In its own volition, police do surveillance checks on the park while on patrol.
“Once a suspect is apprehended, the task force will invite the police and hand the suspect over to them. However, a driver or conductor can go into his hotel room with a girlfriend or pick a woman from the roadside, which does not mean that the park is a den of prostitutes.”
“So far, so good, the trailer park is serving its purpose perfectly well and no driver nor passerby has ever complained of criminal activities in the park.”
An environmentalist, Kennedy Mbah, who spoke on the happenings in the park, said there is need for the government and other regulatory agencies to be more committed in ensuring that public places are not abused by the excesses of the people.