© 2019 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
It’s the season of park rides, but how safe are Abuja’s amusement parks?
Over the weekend and Christmas holiday, thousands of Abuja residents — both adults and children — thronged the amusement parks in the city to have adrenaline-pumping rides that appear to be safe but can be dangerous.
Last year, two girls of the same parents were killed and five other children were severely injured in an accident at a popular Oakland Amusement Park in Enugu State. The victims were riding on the teacup, one of the facilities in the park, when the accident occurred.
The Enugu incident has been the only reported fatality at amusement parks in recent years, but it does not mean that accidents are not occurring at amusement parks in the country — Nigeria just doesn’t have a record of those accidents.
Globally, thousands of injuries, as well as fatalities, occur at amusement parks. In 2016 alone, 30,900 injuries associated with amusement parks happened in the US, according to the country’s Consumer Product Safety Commission.
In July, a roller coaster collision in Spain left 33 people injured. In May, an 11-year-old girl died after falling from a water ride in the U.K.’s Drayton Manor park while another girl in central China was killed in February after being flung from a spinning ride, according to Time.
These amusement-park mishaps happen across the world. How safe are the amusement parks in Abuja?
There is no available record of injuries or fatalities at amusement parks in Abuja. Perhaps the injuries in these parks have gone unnoticed due to lack of accident records.
On Tuesday, the Boxing Day, the ICIR visited Magic Land Amusement Park, formally known as Wonderland — the biggest and the most visited amusement park in the nation’s capital. From the cars in long queues to enter the park to the long queues to buy the N400 entrance ticket per person, there was a crowd waiting to get a few minutes of pleasure from the thrill rides.
The giant structures of roller coasters, bumper car, ocean cars, frog jump, pirate ship, cowboy mini wheel, flying tower, carousel, happy worm capsule, bouncy castles, among others, were sending thrills and chills down the spines of fun-seekers who were queuing to pay from N500 to N1000 to have a ride of less than five minutes.
Despite pushing the riders to exhilarating extremes, there was no case of injury during the over two hours of observation by the ICIR but the rides can break and cause horrible accidents. By watching the riders, the roller coaster cars can fly off the tracks or cables in the flying tower can come loose. These are machines that can be prone to malfunctioning or human error.
One of the operators told the ICIR that the park is safe and rides across the machinery are safe as well, as there had never been a fatal accident at the park.
The operator explained that accidents could occur due to the rider’s error, arising from fear or through the operator who failed to enforce the safety procedures. The equipment malfunction can be very deadly for the riders.
He said the facilities are inspected regularly because the rides have a lot of moveable and breakable parts, which have to be well-maintained to avoid pulling off during rides.
One of the facilities, pirate ship, was cranky but the operators said the cranky sound posed no danger.
All across the rides in Magic Land, there were no posted age, height, weight and health restrictions, which are standard safety practices in amusement park operations around the world.
Adults were seen carrying children to enter the rides. While the adults had their seat belts and safety bars, the children on their laps could be thrown off the rides in situations of accident.In carrying these children to enter the rides, they were not following any special loading instructions and seating order, as there were no posted instructions that could warn riders of the dangers of not following rules.
The park has a first-aid office to treat minor injuries at the entrance of the park, but there was no standby ambulance despite the crowd at the place.
The park manager declined to speak with the ICIR on the lack of posted safety instructions and other safety measures in the park.
Similarly, the Maitama Amusement Park, is another theme park in Abuja, did not also have posted instructions in any of the rides at the park despite having fun activities, such as a teacup, formula one, frog Jump, space gun ride, mini jet, bumper boat convoy, slides, and go-cart.
Ikenna Omeluko, the safety officer at the Maitama Amusement Park, said there had not been any fatal accident in the park.
He said there had only been minor injuries, which he treated, as a first aid officer and member of the Red Cross, adding that the park had an arrangement for an ambulance.
It seems unusual that the two major theme parks in Abuja do not have posted instructions for parents to weigh the risks of getting their children on the rides. Without posted safety guidelines, some of the visitors could get on the rides with a pre-existing medical condition or fail to use the safety devices appropriately without knowing the risk, as the operators were always busy getting more people on the rides to reduce the queues.
Linda Chibuzor, a parent, told the ICIR that the rides scared her but she usually brought her children to the park during a major holiday to give them a treat. But she said she depends on God for their security when they get into the rides.
“My brother, it is God that saves,” Chibuzor said. “Anything can happen in these rides but God is the ultimate saviour.”