Sahara Centre’s Panelists Seek Ways to Improve Leisure in Lagos

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Justina Uzo

Lagos is a destination for business and for leisure. Investors always eye the huge market; the population of Lagos State is said to be over 20 million. Even though the state is easily the entertainment hub of Africa, not a few have faulted the inability of the residents to embrace leisure.   The Sahara Centre recently took the bull by the horn by launching the “Lagos Island Project” aimed at understanding residents’ and key stakeholders’ perspectives on recreation, leisure and tourism as well as exploring the spatial structure of recreation, leisure and tourism on Lagos Island, by investigating the relationship between these phenomena.

Personalities who were panelists at the event included the Executive Secretary, Victoria Island and Ikoyi Residents Association (VIIRA), Abdul Latif Muse; multi-award-winning theatre practitioner and manager, Glover Memorial Hall, Lagos Island, Ajoke Silva, and the Principal Architect, ARG Studio and Convener, Open House Lagos, Chuka Ihonor.       Others were real estate research analyst and Founder, Estate Intel, Dolapo Omidire, and Lead Architect, Freedom Park Lagos, Theo Lawson.

The panel discussion was moderated by the Executive Director of The Sahara Centre, Dr. Adun Okupe.

With the theme, “Inclusive Planning for Recreation, Leisure and Tourism in Lagos,” the panelists took a hard look at leisure and what to do in order to help communities.

Meanwhile, the pilot study sought to understand the communities in Lagos and their perspectives on recreation, leisure and tourism.

Key findings and lessons learnt highlighted residents and business owners’ perception of leisure time and relaxation which is confined to the free time available before and after work. Another resident said safe and secure recreational open spaces, parks or playgroups close to their homes would contribute to a strong feeling of community belonging.

Self-employed business owners and craftsmen, it was learnt, were not able to engage in recreational activities for several reasons such as inadequate funds, lack of time, security concerns, lack of awareness and lack of accessibility to the recreational facilities.     While thanking Henrich Boll Foundation for their support of the project’s data collection phase, the Sahara Centre urged spirited individuals and groups for support, emphasizing, “we are open to conducting similar research in other communities in Lagos (apart from Victoria Island) and the country as a whole.

The organisation also said cohesive communities were important for the safety, security and wellbeing of residents, businesses and visitors.

One of the panelists, Silva spoke on how the creative industry could contribute to urban development.

“One of the key things to be done is to have events that include community members and others outside of the community.

The creative industries can provide content for activities that appeal to different users, old and young, residents and visitors,” she said.

Silva pointed out that the question of space, financing and funding would always come in, saying, “Concessions should be for longer periods of about 30 years to attract investors, and to ensure a place gets established and is not susceptible to the changes of political administrations.”

The VIIRA’s Executive Secretary spoke on the importance of resident associations in building more cohesive communities.  “Cohesiveness is a realisation of the components of individuals, business owners and corporate bodies in the society. Residents need to understand that they share common access to facilities, such as the drainage system, transportation system and roads. Resident associations should focus on ensuring that members of the community are not exposed to security threats and also form a strong collective that can reach out to the government on the needs of the community,” he noted.

According to Muse, one key function of resident associations is the ability to self-regulate and self-monitor, although one challenge is for corporate bodies who are part of the community, to see themselves as being responsible for the safety, security and smooth functioning of the community.”

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