Over 300 persons employed at the National Museum of Unity, Enugu, risk their sources of livelihood as the federal government finalises its plans to concession the park to a private developer. The park is located along Abakaliki road.
Our correspondent gathered that the authorities of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, owners of the recreation centre, will in a matter of weeks hand over the park to a private firm to clear, rebuild and hand over to the commission within one year.
Although the curator of the National Museum, Enugu, Alex Duru, was not available for interview, a source in the office told our correspondent on condition of anonymity, that, “It is the best thing to happen to the National Museum, Enugu, because this place should be a foremost tourist destination in Nigeria.
“The plan is to hand over the designated areas to a private investor who will build an ultra-modern museum kitchen, children’s playgrounds, amphitheatre, among other state-of-the-arts tourism facilities, and hand them over to the National Museum for management. The same investor will build staff quarters, as well as guest houses for the National Museum. The firm will then manage a part of the guest houses for some years to recoup what was invested and then the National Museum will possess it. It is a win-win situation.
“We don’t have intention to victimise anybody or secretly sell off the land to anybody. By the way, the National Commission for Museum and Monuments is a federal government agency, so whatever is being done is under the authority of the federal government through the supervising agencies.
“As we are discussing, the Infrastructure Concession and Regulatory Commission, which is a federal government agency regulating public-private partnership endeavours for rapid economic development, is interrogating the bidding of the investor who has applied to carry out the restructuring of this place. If the deal scales through, in the next one year or thereabouts, this place will be a world-class tourist centre and will generate jobs, wealth and also showcase our cultural heritage.”
Our correspondent gathered that the New Berries wing of the park will not be demolished because the arena is leased to the owner by the national headquarters of the National Museum. “And,” according to a source, “It is a beauty to behold. The management has given it a facelift to the standard of what we want.”
Nze Kingsley Ezeyim, chairman of the Business Unit, Museum, appealed to the authorities concerned to carry the occupiers of the designated places along to avoid throwing them out of their sources of livelihood. He said the operators might invest in the new arrangement if they were well informed.
According to him, “I’m in the business in the museum. I retired from the National Commission for Museums and Monuments. I served in Lagos, Benin and Kaduna before serving in Enugu where I eventually retired in 2014.
“We heard of plans to concession this park to a private developer. I took exception to it because I would want civil servants who retired, considering the state of the nation and the economy, and doing business here, to have the picture of what is going on. Some of us still have our children to take care of. It is from these businesses that we sustain them.
“I would have preferred the concerned authorities to first of all engage us as the first-hand operators, especially those who have been in the business, to find out if we can invest in the scheme; even if to take loans using our gratuities as collaterals.
“Again, as retired staff of the National Museum, our allegiance still remains with that place. They are the people to rely on because they have been there, and would never work against the common good of the establishment. Fairness and truth will be their watchwords.
“But if you give it to an outsider, somebody whose business is to make profits, they may not give the project the standards it requires. It is better to give the insiders the opportunity to bid for whatever projects that is being sited at the museum.
“We should be made part of what is being done here first. We have retired, and those currently serving will still retire. I would like to be called upon and told what is being planned and how we could fit in. If I say yes, I would then seek ways to get whatever resources required to meet the demands of such projects.
“This is the most secured centre for relaxation in Enugu. By the side is the Old Government Lodge, and at the other side is the 82 Division of the Nigerian Army.
“We directly employ over 300 persons with their multiple effects. Distributors of whatever we sell here also grow from what we market. We curb crimes by engaging our youths in useful ventures because an idle mind is the devil’s workshop.”
A tourist, Oliver Amechi, said, “The museum is a national heritage. We appeal to the federal government to consider the plight of average Nigerians in concessioning here. That is why I plead that those already in the business should be part of the planning to remodernise here. I don’t see anything wrong in doing so, but my fear is the sincerity of purpose. You may think the project is genuine, only to realise that somebody somewhere had bought the place for private use.“
However, the presence of the complex of the National Museum may make it difficult to sell off this place. The people presently doing businesses here should be abreast of what it takes to still continue with their businesses in the aftermath of the re-designing of the museum.”
Anemployee, Ukamaka Cecilia, said, “This is where I work to earn a living. I am a student and work here weekends and during holidays. I earn N20, 000 monthly, plus feeding. I am begging them not to demolish here or give it out to somebody else. At best, the current operators should be a part and parcel of the arrangement.”