Thousands of revelers had horrific experience making their way into the clear space for the Lagos Countdown 2013, making the event dubbed as 'Africa’s biggest New Year eve party', a major letdown.
The countdown into the New Year was marred by very poor organization, barring a lot of revelers from enjoying the night as unannounced tickets had to be tousled for.
Making its debut in 2012, the Lagos Countdown recorded massive turnout on the Bar beach front where notable musicians performed on an elaborate stage after poorly fired pyrotechnics, turned the entire expanse of Bar Beach and Ahmadu Bello road into a carnival ground. The event was free to attend.
A similar round of excitement was anticipated at the annual event but revelers were stunted and ‘tased’ by private security officials as unannounced tickets were required to make way to the various sections before the stage.
“I never know we will have to get ticket to attend the event” lamented a mother of three teenagers who came with her kids and some of her neighbor’s.
“It was not announced, nobody knows of such a development because last year, my younger brother attended the program and he returned home telling us about the excitement and how people turned out. That is why I decided to come along with my children and their friends, only to get here and be told we have to buy the ticket” said the very distressed mother. This was at just before midnight.
Organizers of the event, Lagos State Signage and Advertisement Agency (LASAA), had in the last one month, undertook a massive publicity campaign across all media platforms about the program of the countdown without any reference to the need that tickets must be procured for the final event.
The month long countdown, which commenced with series of activities on the beach from December 8 was free to anyone and no announcement was made about buying ticket for the final day.
Meanwhile tickets to gain entry into the event were not readily available as it was gathered that organizers of the event and some of the sponsors were responsible for issuing out ‘invitations’ to people to attend the event.
"Why should entry into a program organized by government with taxpayers fund, be based on invitations by private companies" lamented Emmauel Ajayi, referring to the invitations issued by the sponsors.
"This is just confirming that all this Fashola government is concerned about is catering for the rich" Emmanuel declared, adding that "I mean, how can a poor man like me who does not know anyone in the companies get an invitation?"
"These companies have now given the tickets out to just their family and friends."
A telecoms company, which is one of the sponsors (Airtel) however, ran short promo days to the concert on some radio stations in the city.
Subscribers to the telecoms were asked to text a code to 35299 at the cost of N100 to get the ticket. Dangote, Zenith bank and Nigerian Breweries were amongst the other major sponsors of the Lagos New Year party.
"Why can it not be free like it was last year" Emmanuel further asked as he claimed the first edition did not even as much sponsors as it did last year."
It was observed that the invitations, printed as tickets were sold at ridiculous prices at the event, as the program was about to commence.
The tickets for regular stand was retailing for as much as N5, 000 and above by random men who approached desperate revelers who sought to make their way into the concert ground after discovering they have to get tickets.
A man who identified himself as Chibuike, confirmed that he paid N5, 000 for the regular ticket which he bought from "guys around the beach."
“The money I had on me was to be spent here on food and beer but when I was told I have to buy the ticket, I had to change plans” he lamented.
This poor organization led to chaotic scenes at the various entrances into the performance ground and some people lined up by the other side of the road outside the barricaded space.
They were prevented from reaching anywhere near the metallic barricade by heavily armed soldiers and police officers.
"Is this a war scene" wondered an American traveller, Zakiya Muwwakkil, who was visiting Lagos for Christmas, at the sight of the armed military officers mounted on armored tanks all over the grounds.
The night was even made worse for some people who become disorderly on the long queues as private security operatives from Hogan Guards, were seen tasing people with police tasers, thereby passing electric shock to people’s body for being rowdy. There were a number of such horrendous moments across all the entry points.
The right people
When asked what led to not holding the concert as a free show as it was the tear before, corporate affairs manager of LASAA, Tope Akande, said, it was an effort to manage the crowd.
"This is an open ground event of enormous crowd and considering the state of security in the country today, the level of security was to avert any unfortunate development. So it is better top be over prepared than be under-prepared."
"If we cannot provide necessary security, people will misbehave" he added.
When asked about the development on ticketing, Mr. Akande explained, "the tickets were never meant to be sold."
He revealed that the tickets ought to called 'passes and not tickets.' "They were to be issued as means of controlling the crowd."
"There were problems we had last year with miscreants and issuing the pass was a means to control that, which is why we partnered with reputable organizations and radio stations, who we believe will get us the right people." "People who just want to party and have fun crossing into the New Year."
"The tradition is never to sell the tickets but some people were caught selling the passes and they duly arrested by the security agencies."
Another major flaw of the 2103 Lagos Countdown was the arrangement of space reserved for attendees. There was the regular, VIP and VVIP. Chairs and table was the only difference between the regular and VIP with barbed wired demarcating the two while the VVIP were seated on the elevated platforms beside the mighty dykes that curtail the ocean surge.
The VVIP also had exotic drinks and shimmering decorations raised above the space.
Revelers not able to secure the front seat across all the spaces were denied any chance of seeing what was going on the stage. Big screens that were erected strategically in the last edition were not available this time around.
There were only two such big screens but they were surprisingly placed beside the stage, thereby giving people on the front roll multiple views at the expense of those at the back.
Despite the cozy provisions made for Very-Very Important Personalities, the VVIPs had to abandon their seats and thronged the front row to get a view of the performances, to the displeasure of the early birds.
“Organizing a big event like this, extra-large screens should have been provided at different spots to enable people that will be at the back to get a view of what is going on, on the stage at ease” a government official who does not want to be identified lamented. Compared to Lagos Countdown 2012, the pyrotechnics of the 2013 Lagos Countdown was not as impressive.
The fireworks, which commenced after the midnight crossover into 2014 seemed not properly organized, as the smoke of prior explosions would not exhaust before the next explosion comes on and the smoky view spoils what should be the spectacular view.
Despite launching the pyrotechnics from a peninsula farther from Bar Beach, the fireworks explosion was so close to the revellers that the sand carried along from the launch site was trickling on the revelers and most worse, on to the VIP and VIP wit their drinks and food on the table.
The event however lived up to its expectation with the expected performances, which ran till the break of dawn. Notable artistes such as D’banj, Burna Boy and Wizkid were delayed till the very early hours of the morning when a lot of people were exhausted and started taking their leave.
Akande noted that the crowd that turned up for the event outnumbered the turnout at the inaugural event, admitting that the evolving challenges, stating "it is part of conscious learning of organizing an event of such magnitude."
Lagos Countdown is fashioned after similar event in major cities around the world, such as Sydney, Dubai, New York, and London where thousands people gather in well-designed squares to merry and countdown into the New Year.
The Lagos Countdown which seeks to institute an enduring crossover tradition, signifying the end of one year and the celebration of the beginning of another is the brainchild of Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola and is organized on behalf of the state government by LASAA.