Traffic management and provision of parking spaces have always posed a make or mar challenge at events. In fact a gridlock traffic side by side with inadequate parking lot are common features at most events . Often times these lead to grave frustrations and reduction in attendance. Indeed, the fear of not finding a proper space to park is enough to scare a prospective attendee.

Akwa Ibom Carols Festival has always been exposed to this fate despite the innovative efforts of its diligent managers. The Uyo Township Stadium which has been the venue for all the editions of the annual event except one lacks the capacity to provide safe and adequate parking lot for the throng of vehicles that ferry worshippers to the event. The resort is that the breadth of Udo Umana Road, Aka Road, Obio Imo Street and the actual street leading into the stadium are always converted into parking spaces on both sides, confining and constricting vehicles of VIPs permitted to enter the arena to very narrow space. Of course this often leads to traffic snarls that sometimes cause the VIPs to step out of their vehicles and walk the remaining distance to the arena while the drivers meander deftly with the human and vehicular traffic to find parking space. This has always been the challenge and has remained so and defiant to all creative thinking.

But the 2019 Akwa Ibom Carols Festival is set to change the drudgery that traffic management and parking have always witnessed and institute an innovative initiative that would make attending the event with vehicles a beautiful experience. This multi-prong initiative would take cognizance of free flow of traffic, comfortable parking spaces with safety as a complement without ignoring the ease of leaving the venue at one’s will. Of course driving out of the venues at the end of events has always been a chaotic and cumbersome experience as other car owners are known to knowingly or unknowingly block other vehicles and disappear. In this particular event, arrangement is made in a manner that would make departure at anytime convenient.

The 2019 Carols Festival has made an empirical projection for the parking of not less than 3000 vehicles. It sounds like fantasy when one conjures mentally the Ibom Hall Grounds one may think he is familiar with. But it is not a fantasy. It is a plan scientifically worked out through the restructuring of the entire Ibom Hall parking lot with massive wasteland dutifully converted to complement the existing car park which had an existing parking space officially for just 70 vehicles. With the restructuring, Ibom Hall Grounds at the end of the preparation of the arena would boast of a parking lot for 750 vehicles.

How has the magic been achieved? Good thinking, daring and can do spirit. If one recalls, the front of Ibom Hall had needless mounds that were conceived as decoratives. But they were actually taking valuable space without evincing any aesthetics. With daring, those mounds had to be demolished for space to be created. The parking lot itself tapered by a drainage. Again with daring, the drainage has been expanded and extended towards the fence with well fortified slabs deployed to cover the gutter. This has automatically expanded the parking lot into the field which before laid bare and unutilized because vehicles could not cross the drainage to make use of the other part as parking space. The whole of that new space would take about 600 vehicles with the adjourning part proximal to the back of the building parking over 60 vehicles.

To forestall any encumbrances in the movement of VIP vehicles, a link road to the exit gate strewn with stone dust for the consolidation of the soil is in the offing. The exit gate is constructed as a ramp (sloping surface) to make vehicles drive more slowly at that point and without fear of sinking. A roundabout has also been created at the car park, perhaps to achieve two purposes; aesthetics and ease of demarcation of the car park into zones. The roundabout which would have a water fountain as a component is expected to give that part a delectable ambience.

Ibom Hall Grounds car park is not the only car park slated for the deluge of vehicles that are expected to throng the event. Thanks to the pro-activeness of the managers of the annual Carols Festival who have over the years proven to doubting Thomases that they can squeeze water out of stone. Knowing that Ibom Hall Grounds car park can only cater for VIPs, they went “poaching” for other car parks that would serve that day’s purpose. Suffice it to say that they have negotiated with neighbours to Ibom Hall Grounds and elicited favourable agreement for the leasing of their facilities as car parks during the event. The craze of some of the neighbours to be part of this noble service to God has reached infectious crescendo that the managers have had to politely turn down some of them.

The first facility in this coterie is the E-Library which is about 200 metres away from the venue of the event. E-Library has an existing car park for 250 vehicles. These are marked spaces. There are parts that are not earmarked as car parks but are empty spaces. An analysis has shown that such spaces can take about 50 vehicles. E-Library therefore is expected to ease the parking challenge by absorbing not less than 300 vehicles.

Close to Ibom Hall is a secondary school called Nigerian Christian Institute, (NCI). NCI has offered its premises which is an equivalent of two football fields. The team of the Carols Festival is to create a temporary gate proximal to where the car parks would be, to enable ease of movement with little disturbance to the students. The beauty of this arrangement is the modernity added to it. Thanks to the exposure and active minds that are willing to learn , who form the crop of the indefatigable Carols Festival Team. Two TOYOTA COASTER buses would be attached to the E-Library car park. Its duty is to convey occupants of the cars in a shuttle run from E-Library to the venue of the event. Another set of two buses have also been put on the NCI route for the same purpose. These vehicles are to move every two minutes from either location. In other words, the vehicles must move on the record time of two minutes from either the car park they are designated or the venue. The beauty here is that you park your car at the car park, walk into a shuttle bus to the venue without being exposed to any risk of molestation by miscreant phone and bag snatchers..

To further boost the provision for parking, a surveyor in the neighbourhood has offered a premises that would comfortably park 150 vehicles. According to him, it is his modest contribution to the event that has come to define Akwa Ibom State in very elegant colours. The adjoining road which leads to the Security Village is to also be converted and used for parking. Men and officers from the State Police Headquarters who are largely the occupants of the Security Village have given assurance that they would provide security on the entire breadth of the road as their contribution to the event.

The event centre which shares fence with Ibom Hall Grounds has also keyed into the gesture family. It also offered its car park for the event. All utility vehicles for the event and Outside Broadcast Vans (OB Vans) including DSTV are to operate from that location. This premises is exclusive and designated only to vehicles aforementioned.

The personnel to manage all the aspects of traffic and parking have also not been overlooked. A Road Marshall has offered to provide orientation to not less than 20 volunteers who are billed to direct parking and manage the entire traffic situation within the arena and the environs. Federal Road Safety personnel are also expected to be on hand to manage the traffic situation and provide efficient service that would eschew possible traffic encumbrances, especially wrong parking.

With the exhaustive and well defined parking arrangement, the likelihood of many people going to the event with their vehicles is further expanded. Team Carols Festival has done an extensive work in this aspect of planning. But it still needs the co-operation of all stakeholders. It is hoped that we would arrive the event fully conscious that the only way we can give our participation fulfillment is to conduct ourselves with Christ-like discipline at that event. That means we would park where we are supposed to park and help bring order rather than chaos to the solemn event.

Ndiana Ekpenyong writes from Uyo.

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