The Ibom plaza built in the heart Uyo, Akwa Ibom State capital, for purposes of relaxation is now a haven for criminals who operate both in the day and night. Constructed as a leisure and business interface and put to use in 2001 by the administration of Obong Victor Attah, the Ibom plaza has attracted large number of tourists over the years.
The plaza, one of the architectural masterpieces of the Attah administration sits on an estimated 5,000 square metre space. Enameled with Italian bricks, the plaza has an open-air amphitheatre, fountain, shopping area, a recreation area embroidered with trees whose leaves create a canopy in all seasons, a car park, pedestrian bridge, a water facility and convenience. The Ibom plaza was a cynosure for fun seekers because it provided an ambience and natural backdrops for photography. In the peak of Christmas in 2004 and 2005, when all the installations that provided the scenery for the leisure farm were functional not less than 80 photographers eked a living taking and selling photos at the Ibom plaza.
All the attractions especially the clean and serene environment were lost when the plaza was leased to some politicians in Uyo local government as political settlement. The leasees started selling toll tickets to artisans who were doing micro businesses at the plaza. To maximize toll collection, the politicians engaged hardened miscreants as ticketers and the miscreants made doing business at the plaza tortuous.
Now, Ibom plaza is like the notorious and chaotic Itam night market. Traders bluntly display their goods on walkways, and the road defacing the entire area.
Cases of daylight robbery at the plaza are more frequent now than anyone can count. Persons who have been waylaid at night by miscreants operating around the area have shared horrible experiences of their encounter with these men of the underworld. These thieves have dispossessed people of their phones, handbags and other valuables before the full glare of police men at the plaza. We had thought that the spate of criminality at the plaza would reduce when a police post was created there. How wrong we were to think that the police would not look the other way while the criminals rob! After all, many police patrol teams are usually seen stopping by to collect tips from these miscreants.
Worthy of note is that crime at the plaza has festered because the criminals have a hideout close by. They criminals usually run into the foliage within the fenced expanse of land that formerly hosted Uyo market. It is therefore necessary to urge the state government to put to use the abandoned Uyo market in order to wade off criminals who are using the area as their hideout.
We call on Governor Udom Emmanuel to fastrack the remodeling of Ibom plaza so that the Uyo city center will again have the aesthetic allure the plaza provided. Also, when the plaza is remodelled, it should be managed by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, not an individual or group of persons.