By Izunna Okafor, Awka
Some residents of Awka the capital city of Anambra State, have lamented over the pace of the ongoing construction of Okpuno—Isuanịọcha Road, which was preceded by massive demolition of shops, residential buildings, and other structures in the area to widen the road.
It would be recalled that Anambra State Government, on March 22, 2023, began the demolition of over two hundred shops, hotels, and residential apartments, located along the Oby Okoli Avenue, which stretches from UNIZIK Temporary Site Junction to across Okpuno and Isuanịọcha villages in Awka. ATM facilities, church buildings, and some other structures in the area were also not spared.
The demolition, according to a government, was to create more space to make the road a double lane.
Heavy-duty equipments were also mobilized to the site shortly after the demolition, while excavation/earth movement works and construction of gutters also commenced on the site on the same pace.
However, barely three months after the demolition of the shops and structures in the area, Governor Soludo’s administration also began the demolition of over 200 buildings in Ekwulobia, Aguata Local Government Area of the State, to construct an ultra-modern flyover in the area.
Flagged-off in March this year by Governor Chukwuma Soludo, the construction of the new Flyover will last for a period of eighteen months. The contract, which was awarded in October 2022, is being handled by the A.V. Vision Construction Nigeria Limited.
Governor Soludo, during the flag-off of the work, also hinted that a modern bus terminal that can accommodate up to 100 buses would be built in the location, while other adjoining roads to the flyover, such as the Nanka-Ekwulobia-Aguata Road (2-kilometer length), and the 1.25-kilometer Ekwulobia-Isuofia Road would also be constructed.
He further said the project would also have other ancillary structures and facilities including a fuel station, security office, fire station and other external works, such as sewage treatment facilities, drainage, landscaping, among others other facilities that will enhance the infrastructural facelift of the area.
In execution of the contract and the consequent demolition/vacation notice recently issued to the owners and occupants of some marked shops, residential buildings and other structures in the area, the State Government recently began a massive demolition exercise in the area.
The commencement of this second massive demolition by the government has, therefore, sparked-off a series of reactions and counter-reactions from the residents of the State, especially the victims of the first massive demolition in Awka, who accused the government of being “too slow” in handling the road project for which it massively crushes their shops and buildings three months ago. They also criticized the government for starting another round of massive demolition in the state (the Ekwulobia demolition) without having done “much” on the site of similar demolition it earlier carried out in Awka.
A resident of Awka who is also one of the victims of the Awka Demolition, Mr. Chuks Onu, lamented that the work had long been delayed, and wondered why it is still at the level it is now.
Why lamenting that the rainy season has just arrived, Mr. Onu also wondered why government would also go ahead to embark on another massive demolition exercise in Ekwulobia for flyover construction, which he opined, “may also suffer similar delay and setbacks suffered by the ongoing construction in the Awka Road.”
This reporter, Izunna Okafor, who toured the site of the ongoing construction in Awka to ascertain the status and the speed of work in the area, observed that a huge and solid drainage construction was ongoing at the Abakaliki Street Junction of the road, parts of which have also cured. A concrete turning and casting equipment was also seen at the site serving five men as they cast and dressed a portion of the drainage on the right-hand side of the road; while newly-cast and yet-to-cure concrete was also seen on the left side drainage, stretching up to the front of the Living Faith Church Headquarters, along the Oby Okoli Avenue.
When interviewed, some denizens of the area, Mrs. Ifeoma Anorue, Onyeka Umeh and Samson Chukwu, all attested that the work was no longer moving with the pace it started.
They also recounted how the demolition did not only cripple many booming businesses in the area but also rendered many people homeless and also exposed many to untold hardship; and wondered why the government would be fast in demolishing the structures, but slow executing the project.
“How how will the victims of this demolition see what is going on here and be happy with the slow pace of the work for which their structures were demolished since three months ago.
“The workmen are blaming it on the rainy season; but even in the peak of this rainy season the government is still embarking on another demolition in Ekwulobia, after which they will also render many people homeless, abandon the work, and blame the rainy season,” Umeh, one of the trio, said.
The trio further opined that the two demolitions were wrongly timed.
When contacted by this reporter, Izunna Okafor, the State Commissioner for Works, Engr. Ifeanyi Okoma, said work had advanced on the site, and hinted that much had been done on the Isuanịọcha axis of the road.
He, however, attested that the project had been slowed down by the recurrent rainfall, which, he said, had also destroyed and washed most parts of the earth works and yet-to-cure concrete works earlier done on the site. This, he said, had caused the contractor to slow down and always observe the weather while working, to avoid further losses.
He said, “They are moving; but you know that there are some of the works that must not be done under the rain. You know, like today, it rained from morning in Awka. You see, we are working… We are fighting against the weather. But, be rest assured that in the next few weeks, you will see a lot of works done there, because we are on the contractors.
“We are insisting that the contractors should continue the work. But they’re asking that if the do the work and the rain washes it away, who will pay? I am telling them that they should continue work immediately.
“So, we are on that. So, just to give us some few days, and we will see what happens.”
“If you look, you will see that we have done the earth works, but the rain has spoilt it. So, these are parts of the things that delay the work,” he added.
Commissioner Okoma further disagreed with the people on the timing of the two massive demolition, insisting that the affected persons were given enough time to evacuate their belongings before the demolition started.
“It’s not a wrong timing… In fact the Governor is so passionate that he considers many things before the execution of any demolition, without which the hardship and effects would be so tremendous on the people. We gave enough time. Even in Ekwulobia now, the people were given so much time, to make sure that they were not taken by surprise. And, as you can see, they are not complaining in Ekwulobia,” he added.
Howbeit, the State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Paul Nwosu, has described the proposed construction of the Ekwulobia Ultra-modern Flyover as a one welcomed by a vast majority of the people of the community.