Vanguard (Lagos)

Nigeria: Before the Demolition of 1800 Houses in Aba

opinion

Even before the recent announcement by the Abia State governor, Chief Theodore Orji that 1,800 houses built on sewer lanes in Aba would be demolished to pave way for easy de-flooding and proper drainage in the commercial city, residents of the city and visitors had clamoured that such action be taken.

Unfortunately, the persistent calls then for the demolition of illegal structures built on the drainage channels by greedy landlords in the city who had grossly bastardized the master plan of the city fell on deaf ears.

This was essentially because officials of successive governments in the state, especially at the local council level, had always colluded with these landlords to secure approval for them to build indiscriminately to the detriment of others.

Several pleas and pressure on the immediate past government of Chief Orji Uzor Kalu to restore the Aba master plan were not heeded as he cleverly stayed action for perceived political reasons.

That is why Aba had proved a hard nut to crack despite efforts by the present government in the state at tackling environment challenges in the city. The reason being that people often ignored what was legal and right to build houses and shops almost on the major roads, including single lane roads. Every little space in the city has been converted to shop or residential home.

The situation is so bad that firms engaged for construction and rehabilitation of roads and drainage channels in the city usually find it difficult doing their job due to lack of space. But it is ironic that residents and traders who create these environmental problems are always quick to blame government and its agencies.

Rather than be blamed, the state government should be commended for taking the bull by the horn to rid the city of illegal structures. The move should be encouraged and supported by all and sundry irrespective of political party affiliation, differences and sentiment.

The step is a move in the right direction. There must be a limit to impunity because evil thrives where good men do nothing. For development to take place, a price must be paid and people must make sacrifices. . So the planned demolition by the government is very timely and welcome.

Those that would be affected by the demolition should be given enough time to relocate. But those to be affected should know that it is not the constitutional responsibility of the government to provide them with alternative accommodation, especially when they built without government approval and do not have certificate of occupancy.

Even if they had certificates of occupancy, as the case might be, and it was discovered that such were wrongly issued to them without taking public interest into consideration, government has the right to revoke them without paying compensation.

It is clear that when the demolition exercise commences, some misguided elements in the state, especially those who have lost out in the power equation might mobilize the affected people and civil societies to protest against it. But the state government should not be deterred by such antics because it is expected given the acts of impunity that have reigned before now.

So they would always want status quo to remain so that they will continue to benefit at the expense of the majority.

After all, that was how they criticized the Task Force set up by the government to remove illegal structures in the state, even when the exercise brought some level of sanity and orderliness in the state, especially in Aba.

Maybe it has not occured to some few armchair critics of the present government that the major problem in rebuilding Aba is the indiscriminate and illegal building of shops and houses on drainage channels in the city. They are quick to criticize, but are unable to provide alternative panacea to problems.

So government should not give up on the planned demolition, no matter the opposition, barrage of criticisms or attacks that might spring up. The government must remain focused and leave judgement to posterity.

Mr Uzo Abagwu an estate agent wrote from Aba, Abia State

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