In what could be a big blow to the brainchild of Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, T.H.E.S.E. â€“ Tourism, Hospitality, Entertainment and Sporting Excellence – the recently concluded Lagos Street Carnival 2017 ended in a huge debacle with stories of unpaid dues, rape and general unruliness.Â Omolola ItayemiÂ reports
The Lagos Street Carnival was meant to be a celebration by different revelers in Lagos and should have contributed to tourism in Lagos. But while the Lagos State Government had boasted numerous financial gains for its citizens who used to occasion to hawk their wares, it failed woefully in living up to an A-class standard event.Â
There were complaints from a wide-range of stakeholders who felt that they were not carried along. One of the hallmarks of tourism is security, which Lagos State is seriously failing at, despite ambitious attempts at making the state the tourism hub of Africa.Â
Interestingly, despite various security personnel like Lagos Neighborhood Safety Corps, Nigerian Army, Nigeria Police Force, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps patrolling the whole arena, with LASTMA, FRSC and VIO officials controlling traffic, there were tales of woe concerning crowd control.
Things got so unruly and rowdy that the event had to be ended abruptly. Guests had been treated to performances by Reminisce, Olu Maintain, Small Doctor, Saheed Osupa, Salawa Abeni, Dapo Tuburna, Myro and Big Shef with DJ Spinall when at aboutÂ 9.20pm, the event had to be stopped. Artistes like Olamide, CDQ, Niniola, and DJ Lambo were still backstage. There were also tales by performers of not being paid for their participation.Â
Â But an even more unsavoury event was the tale of wanton rape of young women. One of the women affected shared her tale of woe on social media. Hereâ€™s her experience:
â€œHello , My names are Ibukunoluwa (other name withheld), I am 22 years old and this is how I was publicly abused sexually; the Lagos State carnival officials also withheld the payments for our services and refused to provide adequate security to members of my team.Â SundayÂ being the date of the actual event, we all met at Ikeja as instructed and we had our performances. Â
â€œThen it was time to pay us, they started coming up with all sorts of excuses why our payments couldnâ€™t be made on that day. They were 500 of us, most which had no means of getting back to their houses. Think of the stress weâ€™d all gone through and how untrustworthy the officials had been to us from day one. We all left in groups, but as we approached the heavy crowd next to the stage, we all scattered, leaving me vulnerable as a female.Â
â€œThen, some men started dragging my phone at first, but I wouldnâ€™t let it go. So they started tearing my clothes. My bra, and the buttons and zip on the bum short I wore under my baggy dress were broken. They untied the strings attached to the dress I wore; they started squeezing my boobs and butt so bad. Before I knew it, they had started taking turn penetrating my private part with their fingers so roughly and then one of them tried inserting his penis in me, but amidst all of this, I was fighting back and screaming for help.Â
â€œThe saddest part of the whole thing was the fact that all of this happened right next to a uniformed police officer, and despite my tears and screams, he didnâ€™t lift a finger to stop the drama; he just kept looking at me like â€˜Do I know you?â€™ But I didnâ€™t stop screaming and that attracted one of my fellow dancers. She ran towards me, pulled me out and created a way to the nearest security guard at the front stage and passed me over to them.â€
This story by Ibukun is typical of public events held in Lagos of recent. Stories of pickpocketing, robbery, rape and sexual molestation have led to apathy to crowded events like musical concerts and soccer matches by families.Â
Females are usually encouraged to move in groups, wearing tight-fitting jeans trousers and equally secure tops to prevent easy access in case of such molestation.
At most of these events, thereâ€™s usually the prevalence of the free exchange of hard drugs like marijuana and alcohol. This may be the catalyst to such unruly behavior.
Furthermore, tales of exclusion by stakeholders were rife. One of the stakeholders, Mojeed Balogun, the Chairman, Ikeja Local Government Area, said that though he was honoured that the carnival was brought to Ikeja axis, as it created employment for petty traders, but if the council was directly involved in the planning process, he was sure that the residents of the axis would have displayed more of their cultural heritage at the carnival. Â
â€œI applaud the LASG for hosting such a fantastic and colourful event but I think there is need for improvement.Â
There is the need to get stakeholders across board involved for an even bigger and more colourful event.Â They were not properly involved in the organisation of the carnival. That is where we are lacking,â€ Balogun said.
The Lagos State Government has not reacted to the unsavoury stories from the event but the state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), SP Chike Oti, said the command was aware of the assaulted girlâ€™s complaint, but it was making efforts to establish contact with the victim.
Â He said: â€œWhen the girl made the complaints, the Divisional Police Officer of Ikeja Station and the Area F Command were contacted to ascertain her claim, but they both said nothing of such happened at the carnival. In our preliminary investigation, the Lagos State ambulance emergency management said they did not attend to such case as claimed by the girl; that they only treated those who fainted at the venue not rape victims.
â€œSuch incident never happened at the carnival as many policemen were deployed in the area to maintain law and order.â€
Word on the street is that since the exit of the Commissioner for Tourism, Arts and Culture, and now DG, NTDC, Folorunsho Folarin-Coker, Lagos State had been finding it difficult hosting world-class tourism events.
Â Whether the Lagos State Government or the Nigerian Police accept responsibility for the fiasco or not, such tales of woe are bound to repel potential tourists who for fear of their lives and safety, would choose to stay away from future events organized by Lagos State.