Recreational gardens and parks in the capital territory have been hijacked by criminals who now use the facilities for their nefarious activities, LEADERSHIP WEEKEND’s investigations have revealed.
The gardens, which were leased to private operators as a means by the Federal Capital Development Authority [FCDA] to preserve the Abuja master plan, have now become a safe haven for urchins, drug barons and consumers.
Investigations reveal that apart from using the parks as hideouts for the sale and consumption of illicit drugs, the criminals also hide under the parks to commit rape and other crimes.
Findings reveal that the daring drug gangs even buy, sell and consume drugs in the daytime without any challenge from relevant agencies charged with the responsibility of checking such atrocities.
It was also discovered that while various drugs are usually sold at the parks, the most widely consumed and openly displayed is marijuana or cannabis, which is commonly smoked by youths, students and other criminally-minded elements in the society.
In one of the parks close to the Wuse Market, a group of youths between the ages of 18 and 25, openly consumed cannabis in the daytime despite the heavy presence of security men around the area.
A manager in one of the parks, who simply identified himself as Ochacha, acknowledged the presence of thugs and drug consumers there, but said he was too scared to speak further on the activities of the groups.
“We have been waging a relentless war on these people to leave our gardens but to no avail. They keep coming here to smoke dangerous items,” the manager complained.
Findings showed also that although operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), have been trailing the drug gangs in the parks, they have not been able to eliminate them due to the porous nature of the parks and gardens in the city.
NDLEA commander in charge of the Federal Capital Territory, Dennis Obiefule, admitted in an interview that his command had been raiding the hideouts and other black spots in the city, but regretted that inadequate manpower had prevented them from mounting a 24-hour surveillance on the gangs.
‘’Yes, we are aware of their activities and we have been tackling them, but they always return shortly after every raid. We cannot be in all the places all the time,” he said.
Head of Public Relations of the Parks and Recreation Department of the FCDA, Mr. Gabriel Obiahu, threatened that the agency would not hesitate to shut parks and gardens that encourage criminal activities.
Obiahu said that all the gardens and parks were on lease and it was imperative for the operators to provide adequate security in those places to ward off criminals.
He warned that operators risk losing their concession if they violated the park policy by allowing miscreants to take over such places for their illicit operations.
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