When Ikoyi Prison Became Freedom Park


As part of activities to mark the country’s 50th independence anniversary, the Lagos  State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, Thursday evening commissioned the Freedom Park on  Broad Street in Central Lagos.

The celebrations, which were rounded off at the Marina waterfront with fireworks in the  early hours of Friday, began at the site of the former Broad Street Prisons   in which  the colonial masters had incarcerated Nigerians who opposed their rule. It has since been  redeveloped into a tourism and recreation centre.

Addressing the audience before the commissioning of the Park, Governor Fashola said  Freedom Park is symbolic of what Lagos and Nigeria had sought to achieve in the last 50  years, adding that it represents the liberation of the human spirit from all that seek to  confine it.

“Taking into account our history and aspirations, this Park represents a journey towards  a greater goal, the triumph of humanity over all forms of tyranny, both political and  social, and the ultimate liberation of the human spirit from all that seek to confine  it,” the Governor said.

According to him: “The Park is also a testimony that points to our administration’s  commitment and belief in freedom as the essential purpose of governance; freedom from  need, freedom from poverty and its many spin-offs, and freedom from insecurity.”

Fashola said in the pursuit of such freedom, metropolitan regeneration and redevelopment  have become the critical components of the efforts of his administration towards the  renewal of Lagos and the renewal of social traditions as well as traditions of  infrastructural nature.

“As we plan to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of our Independence, the historic nature  of this prison to our national development and the illustrious Nigerians who had been its  inmates, commended for a special dedication today, the Anniversary eve, our honour and  tribute to those who lost their freedom so that you and I can live in a free country,”  Governor Fashola said.

Naming those illustrious Nigerians who were inmates of the Prison to include, Herbert  Macaulay, Chief Cbafemi Awolowo, Chief Michael Imodu, Sir Adeyemo Alakija, among others,  the Governor said the redevelopment intentionally preserved the 52 cells blocks which  served as confinement for the inmates, “to give us a sense of the feeling of confinement  and restraint experienced by our fathers who served time here.”

“This is why we now named it Freedom Park because it was a road to our freedom and we  intend to keep it as a favoured destination to tourists and all those who seek freedom as  a memorial in honour of all those eminent and illustrious nationalists who protested  against and successfully ended colonial rule and dominion in Nigeria,” he said.

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Noting that the prison site was, before the redevelopment, not only an abandoned site but  also overgrown with weeds as well as being used as a refuse dump, Fashola commended the  initiator of the project, Architect Theo Lawson, who, according to him wrote a proposal  for the redevelopment which he presented before the State Executive Council.

“I believe that it is men and women like Theo Lawson that will prosper this state and  this country,” the Governor said, pointing out that the redeveloped site would henceforth  be a new destination on the Lagos social and tourist calendar.

Giving a short history of the Prison earlier, the Commissioner for Physical Planning and  Urban Development, Town Planner Francisco Abosede, said with the forced ceding of Lagos  to the British Government in 1861 by Oba Dosumu, the colonial masters established the  first constabulary in 1863 which was the precursor of the Nigeria Police Force of today,  adding that this signaled the incarceration of all who opposed colonial rule.

The Commissioner said the redevelopment of the site preserved in their original forms the  cells which served as confinement for the inmates of the prison, the chains use to  restrain their movements and the gallows where condemned prisoners were hanged, among  other historic features.

He said Lagos, under the leadership of Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), was determined to  preserve the state’s historic past adding, “it is a testimony of the focused leadership  of Governor Fashola whose inspiration is turning Lagos into a world tourism centre”.

The Commissioner thanked all those who contributed to the realisation of the project  including the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Babatunde Akiolu 1, the Nigerian Controller of  Prisons and Architect Theo Lawson who initiated the project adding that their names would  always feature in the annals of the preservation of the state’s historic past and  traditions,

Highlights of the occasion included presentations by artistes such as Lagbaja and others,  a fashion show, drama presentation and other entertainment.

The celebrations moved to the Marina waterfront just before midnight where the Governor  and other dignitaries watched the display of fireworks which began at exactly 12 midnight  to herald the 50th Independence of Nigeria. The fireworks, which lit the entire Lagos  Island skyline, lasted for several minutes.

Present at the occasion were the First Lady and wife of the State Governor, Dame Abimbola  Fashola, the Deputy Governor, Princess Sarah Adebisi Sosan, the Secretary to the State  Government, Princess Adenrele Adeniran Ogunsanya, prominent Lagosians, including the Oba  of Lagos, Oba Babatunde Akiolu 1 and his white cap chiefs, Chief Molade Okoya-Thomas,  Chief Razak Okoya, Senator P.E.B. Fashinro, captains of industries, members of the  Diplomatic Corps and other top government functionaries.

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