By Izunna Okafor, Awka
Anambra State Government has marked over one hundred shops for demolition in Awka, the capital city of the state.
The shops, located along the Oby Okoli Avenue, which stretches from UNIZIK Temp. Site to across Okpuno, were marked alongside other structures, which include residential apartments, offices, billboards, fences, among others.
Cynosural among the structures marked for demolition were the fence of the Traditional Ruler of Okpuno, Igwe Sunday Okafor; the fence of the Living Faith Church Headquarters (Winners Church); the perimeter fence of the residential building of Oby Okoli Avenue, Ebony Supermarket, perimeter fence of the newly-constructed Waldorf Hotels, billboard and perimeter fence of the Admore Hotels, Sterling Bank ATM, among others.
The structures were marked by the officials of the Awka Capital Territory Development Authority (ACTDA), who also gave the owners seven (7) days to remove them or have them demolished by the Authority. The seven-day ultimatum will elapse Tuesday (tomorrow), while the officials of ACTDA is expected to also start the demolition exercise proper that day.
When this reporter visited the area, it was observed that some owners of the marked shops have already evacuated their goods and other belongings therein, while many others were seen, still dismantling and evacuating their belongings.
Some of them who spoke to this reporter described the demolition notice as unwarranted, too sudden, unexpected and destabilizing, given the current economic realities in the country. Many of them said they just recently renewed or paid their rents and expressed worry that such ‘unfortunate‘ situation is befalling them in such an early period of the year.
Mr. Nelson Ngoka, whose boutique was marked for partial demolition said he started wondering what could be the reason for the demolition the day the ACTDA officials were marking his shop, only to hear later that it was because of a road construction ongoing in the area.
He, however, said, his shop and some other shops and structures marked for demolition in the area do not block the drainage channels or pose any obstacle to the said road construction, adding that some of the structures that were wrongly positioned had long been removed before the road was scraped, while some parts of the project are currently on the stone base level.
He then wondered what could be the government’s actual intent for the proposed demolition, even as he called on Governor Chukwuma Soludo to intervene in the situation or have a re-consideration, if he is truly the person who authorised the demolition.
In their separate reactions, a provision shop owner and occupant of one the buildings which fence is marked for demolition, Mrs. Caroline Chinenye, and a worshipper at the Winners Chapel which fence is also marked for demolition, Mrs. Gloria Ifeaka said they wondered the kind of road construction that could necessitate the demolition of almost every structure along the street.
They also expressed concern that the demolition, if carried out, will not only cause the residents unquantifiable loss and expose them to various kinds of risks, especially security risks, but also bring about a total blackout that may tarry for months, since electric poles and transformers are also positioned in the areas to be affected by the demolition.
An electrical parts dealer in the area whose shop is marked for demolition, Mr. Chidi Eze faulted the government’s decision to demolish the structures, describing it as man’s inhumanity to man.
He said (in Igbo language), “Before they started constructing this road, they pulled down many shops. And ever since then, they scraped this road and left it like that, with all the dust it is generating everyday. And now they say they are coming to destroy more shops and buildings to expand the road while they have not finished constructing the one they scraped since how many months ago now.
“Can you imagine this kind of distraction and the kind of hardship this will cause people this new year. What do this people really gain by suffering their fellow human beings? They said they are expanding road, didn’t they know the size of the road they wanted to construct initially before jumping into it? So, why are they coming out again now to distract people’s hustle and destroy people’s means of livelihood in this new year? This Soludo’s administration self; everyday one new story,” he said, visibly disappointed and disenchanted.
Notwithstanding these complains and expressions by the residents, a source in the area reliably revealed that the Traditional Ruler of Okpuno, Igwe Sunday Okafor willingly gave his approval when he was approached for the demolition of his perimeter fence which was consequently marked and included in the list of the to-be-demolished structures.
When contacted for explanations, the Managing Director of the government agency championing the demolition, ACTDA, Mr. Ossy Onuko explained that the primary reason behind the proposed demolition is to expand and make the road a dual-carriage road; and not to cause any form of hardship to people as many erroneously think or peddle.
He revealed that decision is in line with the government’s resolve to give Awka a befitting status of a capital city, while also revealing that the demolition exercise will still commence on Tuesday (tomorrow) as earlier proposed.
On the perceived effects the demolition would have on the residents of the area, including the blackout; Mr. Onuko acknowledged that such a positive transformation usually comes with some kinds of discomfort, but, however, said such discomfort would only tarry for a short period of time.
“Even the relocation of the electric poles and transformers will not take more than three days. So the said discomfort, if any, will last only but for a short time. But one thing I can assure you is that the vision is very clear,” he said.