Tony Osauzo and Ighomuaye Lucky, Benin
In the past, it used to be a centre for social activities. But today, it is a haven for reptiles and hideout for criminals. This is the story of Ramat Park named after General Murtala Ramat Mohammed, Nigeria’s Military Head of State, assassinated on February 13, 1976, during Col. Buka Suka Dimka’s coup.
What remains of the once bubbling park are giant trees that dominate the place, located at Ikpoba-Hill, Ikpoba-Okha Local Government, Edo State. In time past, there were buildings and business centres at the park served as event centre for social activities like marriage, burial and birthday.
Then, the park was generating revenue for Ikpoba-Okha LG. Its buildings were pulled down by the immediate past administration of Adams Oshiomhole. Before the coming of Oshiomhole, the place used to serve as recreational centre. Also, brewery companies used to hold carnivals every year there.
But during the first tenure of Oshiomhole, his Commissioner for Environment, Prince Clem Agba, said the place would be remodelled and beautified. He said the project would be financed by banks. Thereafter, all the facilities in the place were pulled down. Years have passed by and not even a building was erected on the land to replace the demolished ones.
Now, the park with its wide fence, occupying a vast expanse of land, is creating heavy traffic jam in the area, especially on Oregbeni Market days, every five days. To the inhabitants of the area, the park is no longer needed if the government cannot rebuild the structures it met there and reduce the fence to ease traffic congestion.
Mr Sylvester Ogboya, lamented that the place which was once a beehive of social activities is now serving as a hideout for hoodlums and a refuse dump site:
“The truth of the matter is that the place has been in use for sometime until recently when they evacuated all the tenants occupying the buildings for their business activities.
“Churches do rent there for their activities. There was a time Winners Chapel was there and some other offices were there as well. But now, it is being occupied by hoodlums. Most of the places are being used as refuse dumps, which is not supposed to be so.
“I would advise government if they can use the Ramat Park as a general park so that all vehicles will be loading and evacuating their passengers there. It will be in good use for the state and the community as well.
“Government should think of a better thing to do there like building an event centre so that people can go there for their social activities. I am only suggesting and I am not imposing it on the government. It has the right to do whatever things it wants to do there.”
Another concerned citizen, Mr Peter Erunmwunse, said: “Like as it is now, you will find out that nothing is going on there except mobile court. Government supposed to have been able to provide solution about this place to make it useful for the citizens of the state so that it can be a source of revenue for government. That is what I see about it.
“There used to be a beehive of activities here at this Ramat Park. When you talk about marriage activities and all other activities, in fact, it was the centre of activities.
“People can come here to celebrate and carry out whatever social activities they want to carry out. But as the buildings inside were destroyed by the previous government some years ago and without replacing them, it has made the place to be more redundant and I do not like it.”
For Mr Johnbull Ola Egbeta, the size of the place should have been an advantage because it is bigger than the Ring Road: “To say the truth, this Ramat Park, I am so surprised government does not make use of it. It is even bigger than the one at Ring Road. People may like to rent the place for their businesses or social activities.
“Anybody who wants to do marriage before did come here to rent a hall for the event. As we speak, there is nothing like that and the place is lying fallow and nothing is going on there.”
He said the fence has done more harm than good because of the unusual traffic it creates: “You see a lot of go-slow here. The fence has made the place to be so narrow. If government knows it cannot do anything here like building an event centre, let it destroy the fence or reduce it so that the road will be wide enough for human and vehicular movements.”
He advised the Ikpoba-Okha LG to liaise with the state government: “If the government knows that it wants to make use of it, like the Ikpoba-Okha LG, it is actually being controlled by the local government. The local government chairman can go and meet the governor and discuss the best ways Ramat Park can be best be put to use.”
For Godwin, the fence should be reduced while the road widened: “Whether they are going to destroy it or not, it all lies with the government. I will suggest the fence should be broken and be reduced because it is too wide thereby narrowing the road. When the fence is reduced, they can widen the road.
“The fence is occupying space and they are not doing anything there. Ever since I have known this place, it has not been useful to anybody.
“If government chooses to make the place an event centre. But they should destroy the fence and widen the road, because it causes heavy traffic. By the time vehicles come from Ehor side and Agbor road axis, here will be jam-packed. The fence is occupying space.”
Mrs Aimuanmwosa Betty said government should build a motor park inside the park: “The road is too tiny. They should reduce the fence and add to the road. There is usually hold up here especially on Ikpoba Hill Market days all these are happening because the road is not wide enough.
“I want the government to create a motor park in the Ramat Park. In addition, government should build an event centre there so that people who want to carry out any social event can go there, pay and do it there as it used to be. As it is now, it is of no use and it is just occupying space. If the government can do all that I have just said, it will be a source of revenue.”
Another respondent, Mrs Grace, pleaded with those concerned to do the needful to rebuild the place: “They should maintain the place, build recreational centre there so that children can go there to play. Government should build event centre there so that people can go there for their social activities like marriages, burial ceremonies, birthday ceremonies and any other activity.
“I do not like the way it is now. They used to carry out social activities here but for some few years ago the buildings inside the Ramat Park were destroyed but