Sunday, 28th November 2021
<To guardian.ng
Search
Breaking News:

Anguish, as bulldozers demolish houses in Owerri

By Charles Ogugbuaja
17 July 2016   |   2:54 am
According to the governor, the initiative aims to restore the state’s Master Plan, which was drawn following creation in 1976. It is expected to feature the expansion of some roads in Owerri, the state capital, to 10 lanes.
Residence of former Minister of Interior, Capt Emma Iheanacho, after the fence had been pulled down PHOTO: CHARLES OGUGBUAJA

Residence of former Minister of Interior, Capt Emma Iheanacho, after the fence had been pulled down PHOTO: CHARLES OGUGBUAJA

• Okorocha: No Going Back On Urban Renewal

In Owerri, many residents are reeling from trauma inflicted by the ongoing Urban Renewal Programme of the Governor Rochas Okorocha-led administration. One after the other, homes and property belonging to individuals and corporate bodies continue to crumble, as bulldozers roar.

According to the governor, the initiative aims to restore the state’s Master Plan, which was drawn following creation in 1976. It is expected to feature the expansion of some roads in Owerri, the state capital, to 10 lanes.

The programme is being executed by officials of the Owerri Capital Development Authority (OCDA), backed by the express directive of the governor.

OCDA accused owners of the demolished structures of failing to observe the mandatory distance between building and gutter. The governor had repeatedly decried congestion in the capital, faulting the erection of property without plan or approval by the state government. He has vowed that the renewal would continue.

Structures that were pulled down include: fence and security post at No 6, Orlu Road, belonging to the All Progressives Grand Alliance’s (APGA) 2015 governorship candidate, and former Minister of Interior, Capt Emma Iheanacho, and his fuel station, along Okigwe Road; Best Way, Pine Wood Hotels; Girls Secondary School, Amakohia; single-storey shopping complex, along Mbari Street; some buildings in highbrow Ikenegbu Layout; graves of some persons along Amakohia-Akwakuma-Orlu Road; Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Akwakuma; fence of the state-owned Imo Transport Company (ITC), along MCC Road; Orji Industrial Village (Mechanic Village); fences of many premises, including that of the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), along Orlu Road.

Structures marked for demolition as at Thursday, July 14, include: single-storey office building at No. 54, Mbaise Road), belonging to former Director of the defunct Mass Mobilisation for Self Reliance, Social Justice, and Economic Recovery (MAMSER) and National Awards recipient, Dr. Chuks Osuji; fence, gate and pedestrian bridge at Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education (AIFCE), along Orlu Road; and fence of Lamonde Hotels, along Okigwe Road, said to be owned by the governor.

Eighty-two-year-old Osuji, visually impaired since 2006, however, said he obtained all necessary documents from the state government and that required measurements were observed, adding that he even observed a 13-metre distance between building and gutter.

He condemned the planned demolition and vowed he would rather die at the site when the bulldozer arrives than have his structure pulled down. He urged prominent Nigerians to prevail on the governor to rescind the decision.

Okorocha’s Chief Press Secretary, Sam Onwuemeodo, in a statement, however, said: “It is very unfortunate that few indigenes of the state who have sworn not to appreciate any good thing done by the government of Rochas Okorocha have been working tirelessly to use the expansion works on some major roads in Owerri and environs to blackmail the governor. Most people in the state appreciate what the government is doing at the moment, adding a lot of value to Owerri as state capital and making it a model city.

“The governor has continued to appeal for understanding from people of the state, especially those whose fences, kiosks and other structures were affected. The governor’s ambition is to leave the state better than he met it, and all hands must be on deck to encourage him in his effort to achieve that lofty goal.”

Okorocha, meanwhile, appears not to be listening to anyone who is kicking against the exercise. Market women, and women of Owerri municipality have faulted the governor’s directive that traders at the bustling Ekeukwu-Owere Market should be relocated to Egbeada, in Mbaitoli local council.

The women dressed in black and led by the President General of Owerri Women Organisation, Mrs. Ihuoma Anolu, on Thursday, protested along some major streets in Owerri, impeding traffic flow for about three hours. They also barricaded Government House. The women said the market should not be relocated so far away; they would have to board taxis to buy items as small as salt and pepper.

Okorocha, who replied them in a statement again signed by Onwuemeodo, said there is no going back on the relocation, adding that the market would be turned into a shopping mall.

Also, members of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Owerri branch, led by Lawrence Nwaekaeti, faulted the demolition, saying it is wrong to pull down peoples’ houses without due processes, dialogue, and compensation. They said the government’s decision would place more hardship on people.

The association’s chairman, who addressed reporters in Owerri, threatened to institute legal action against the state governor and government, even as they criticised members of the Imo House of Assembly for not calling the governor to order. The lawyers also faulted the logic behind the roads expansion when many roads in the state were either in deplorable conditions or were unfinished, years after they were started.

The governor, however, is not fazed. A court injunction by Capt Iheanacho, restraining the state government from demolishing his fence, appeared not to have worked. On demolition day, more than a week ago, aides to the former minister had resisted the move. But the governor arrived the venue with a retinue of armed security personnel and supervised the exercise.