Located in a city where aquatic life and beach experiences are scarce, Jabi Lake Recreation Park should ordinarily be the toast of fun seekers within and around the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Encircled by water with beautiful scenery, the park offers the closest exquisite beach experience.
Beside the lake, is a cool garden that provides attractive scene and inexpensive fun for families and lovers.
In the park are many recreational facilities that can attract local and foreign fun seekers. Indeed, the patronage has never been in short supply, especially by picnickers, birthday celebrants and other event seekers.
For those interested in games like water sports, beach volleyball, five-a-side football, and table tennis, the recreation park provides them abundantly. Similarly, families interested in giving memorable treats to their children and other loved ones can access comfortable speedboat cruise, horse riding, skiing, game shows, gambling, dancing competition and many others at very considerate prices.
All manner of businesses thrive in the park. Thanks to the heavy patronage by fun seekers, the lake provides jobs for many industrious Nigerians, who hawk goods and services needed by fun seekers.
These include skiing kits, mats, clothes, jerseys and other sports memorabilia as well as soft drinks, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Many of the picnickers also engage in horse riding.
For many families and fun seekers, it is always an exciting and worthwhile experience. A middle-aged horse operator, Mallam Musa, who has spent more than five years in the business, told Abuja Metro that apart from being a lucrative venture, it has been gratifying making families and other fun seekers happy.
He said on a good day, especially at weekends and festive periods, when patronage is usually very high, about 80 persons ride on his horse and that means more money for him and his colleagues.
“We charge N300 per ride with two children or one adult. Sometimes, a family may end up spending over N1,000, especially if they are all interested in climbing horses. During festive periods like Christmas, New Year or Sallah, the business is more interesting because of high patronage. Many families and other fun seekers would want to ride horses and take pictures. During such period, we struggle to cope with the demand from customers. We would beg them to be orderly.
“Sincerely, during festive periods, more than 70 persons could ride on a horse. It is always time to make good money, but you know that we settle many persons, including the horse owners, the operators of the horse and the park authorities. I am really enjoying the business here.
“It is true that many entertain fears that we might disappear with their children or kidnap them, but I assure you that we have never recorded and will never record such case. There are some instances families would leave their children with us and after the rides, we would re-unite them. Do not also forget that even though there are bushes around, this place is not too large for any horse rider to disappear with anybody’s child or children. Our identities are documented and we are even more interested in our business than anything else”, he said.
Rewarding speedboat business
The recreation park offers amenities like speedboat and canoe rides as well as other water sports. Overcoming their aqua phobia, many families cruise on such rides with experts, spending as high as N1,500 on cruises.
An operator who did not want his name in print, told Abuja Metro that he would not exchange the business for any other job, revealing that he could make more than N30,000 daily, especially during festive periods.
“We collect N1,500 per family and as you can see, we have two speedboats to attend to customers. Interestingly, we struggle to cope with the demand during festive periods because many families want to enjoy boat cruising. During such times and busy weekends, we make as high as N30,000. But, there are days that patronage is very low and discouraging”, he stated.
Gambling, dance competition and skiing
Fun seekers also engage in dance competitions, gambling and skiing. Many adults, youths and children brave the risks to participate in skiing. Also, dance competitions are regular fun in the park. It is common to see skilled dancers compete for prizes while entertaining fun seekers with captivating dance steps and styles.
Home for crime and criminality
On the flipside of the beauty of the park are terrifying scenes of robbery attacks on fun seekers and the menace of almajiris, who pester visitors with forceful begging for alms and struggle for left-overs during celebrations.
One of the workers, who identified himself simply as Benjamin, confirmed that robberies in the park are higher during festive periods, saying that in some cases, youths numbering over 20 would storm the park, threatening fun seekers with dangerous weapons and collecting their belongings including handsets and wallets.
Narrating his experience with robbers last year, Benjamin said: “I have worked here for more than seven years and I can tell you that we have never had a case of any child disappearing while riding a horse. All the horse operators are registered. The security challenges we face here include the almajiris that sometimes spoil the fun for those celebrating birthdays or other functions with their desperation to collect food left-overs and other items.
“People have complained that once you leave your food carelessly for some seconds, the boys would swoop on it and take it away. But, if they report to us that their disturbance was becoming too much, we will order them out of the place.
“Armed robbers do come into the park, especially during festive periods. Some boys from Karimo, Gwagwa, Jabi and other suburbs usually storm here in a group of 20, wearing black or white long dresses to rob fun seekers.
“I had a harrowing experience sometime last year, when they blocked me at Life Camp while I was fleeing from another group that was intercepted by the police while heading to the park. They stabbed me when I ran into them on a tricycle that day.
“I had encountered the first group on black outfits, who collected my handsets before meeting the second group that demanded money from me. When I told them that the other group had collected everything I had, one of them stabbed me with a knife. I lost consciousness until the next day, while in the hospital,” he said.
Explaining the robbers’ mode of operation at the park, Benjamin said: “They have visited this park severally. In most cases, you will just see 10 boys surround some fun seekers with knives and other dangerous weapons, demanding their handsets and other personal belongings.”
Pastors offering deliverance to naked women
Like in any other beach in this clime, questionable activities of so-called men of God at odd hours are not only noticeable but on the increase in the lake park. Most of the workers who spoke to Abuja Metro said due to many entry points to the park, it would be impossible to check such practice, adding that initially, they were screened.
One of the workers said: “The problem we have here is that there are many points from where you can enter the park, including nearby bushes. In the past when we worked at night, we usually stop some of them from carrying out questionable spiritual activities in the name of prayers. There were times we would see women naked before the pastor for so-called deliverance or spiritual bath. There are other funny and scary things they do and try to stop them. As a Christian, I have never read in the Bible where God told women to strip stark naked and stand before a man of God for deliverance; but that is what they often do.
“We have seen many of them conducting prayers with different colour of candles and some even burning from both ends. Also we hear pastors and persons who come with them engage in all kinds of incantations and speaking in tongues. I cannot understand why somebody would leave the church to pray for naked women by the lake side.
“I know that such practices will be worse now that we have stopped working at night because we have not been paid for over one year now. Even then, when we locked the main gate they usually enter the park through the bush paths around the lake. Many terrible things happen in the middle of the night here.” , he added.
Park almost abandoned
Ironically, despite emerging high-rise buildings, shopping malls and police post around the lake and the park, and their commercial benefits, there are obvious proofs that the Parks and Recreation Department of the FCT Administration may have abandoned Jabi Lake Park.
Lamenting its worsening situation, one of the workers said: “Yes, a police station is close by, but there is still security problem because anybody can enter the park from anywhere and anytime. This is because it is not fenced. Everywhere is road into the park. Look at even the bushes around, nobody cares again that the park is no longer lush green as it used to be; nobody cares about cutting the bushes around. In the past, one can see the other end of the lake standing at any point; but today, bushes have taken over the place.
“The saddest moment of my working experience here is each time I see heavy rainfall disrupt birthday celebration of families or other functions, because of lack of tents that ought to provide shelter for people”, he noted.
Both visitors and workers who spoke to Abuja Metro appealed to the authorities to save the park from neglect and possible take over by hoodlums and criminals, pointing out that it could be a dependable source of revenue for the government if rehabilitated and harnessed.
CULLED FROM THE SUN