Demolition: We Carry Out Night Operations To Minimize Casualties – Commissioner
By Nedum Noble
The Anambra State Commissioner for Environment, Arch. Michael Okonkwo has reassured the determination of the Obiano-led government to rid the state of illegal structures and shanties to ensure clean and healthy environment for the health safety of the citizenry.
Okonkwo said the on-going demolition of illegal shops in major markets in the state was targeted at decongesting the markets and eliminate street trading in order to ensure free flow of traffic in the markets.
Addressing a press conference in Awka, Okonkwo explained that the exercise being carried out mostly in the night, was to minimize the cases of injuries during the operation.
“The night operation is purely due to logistics. Onitsha for instance, is a very busy place and you can’t carry out the exercise efficiently without injury to people.
“It was not done under the covers of the night. It was purely done when the place is calm in order to minimize injury on people,” he said.
The commissioner, who refuted allegations that the owners of the affected shops were not notified before the demolition, said they were given several weeks of notice to remove their structures but such warnings were ignored.
“There were media sensitization, including those of local town criers. But due to the complacency of the shop owners, they didn’t take us serious. They said it was not the first time they were hearing of such things,” he added.
On why the exercise was not embarked upon during the first term of the present administration, the commissioner said, “there is always a first time. The governor was very focused in his first tenure. First was to get rid of crimes and criminality to ensure security in the state.
“Secondly, he was eager to provide infrastructures like roads and bridges, among others. Now, he is focusing on sanitizing the city of shanties. It is just coincidental and incidental.”
When asked on where the victims were to be relocated, Okonkwo asked the traders to move into the markets which he said, had numerous available spaces.
“There are lots of markets in the state that are virtually empty, yet people prefer to trade on the roads and streets. Go to Umuokpu market, it is practically empty. Let them relocate to those places.
“Besides, it’s high time people started taking responsibilities and not to be waiting for the government to do everything for them,” he stressed.
The commissioner further hinted that he was not unaware of the salaries being owed the staff of the Anambra State Waste Management agency (ASWAMA), saying measures had been put in place to mitigate the problem.
“We’ll rearrange the waste management system very soon. Whoever that is going to be involved in waste disposal in the state must have the capacity, in equipment, personal and financial aspects.
“My heart goes out to those who have not been paid. It’s not their fault but those that engaged them, starting with my office. Things like these should not happen. If not for some interventions we put in place, it could have been worse,” he said.