Shop owners, occupants and business people along Oby Okoli Avenue are not the happiest of people at the moment. This follows the demolition of shops and parts of hotels by the Anambra State Government as it begins the construction of a dual carriage way along that axis, reports Ogochukwu Nwaokafor.
The affected buildings and shops, Fides gathered, were earlier marked for demolition by the Awka Capital Territory Development Authority, ACTDA, which gave their owners seven days to remove them or have them demolished by the Authority.
It was learnt that the demolition affected ATM facilities, churches, and residential apartments located along Oby Okoli Avenue from UNIZIK Temporary Site Junction to Okpuno Village in Awka.
Our reporter who visited the scene to ascertain the level of work by the agency met a chaotic scene, with victims crying out against the exercise.
Some of the affected residents and shop owners who spoke to our reporter said they had already dismantled, relocated, or evacuated some of their facilities and wares ahead of the expiration of the first deadline to avoid incurring much losses.
To some others, the second extension was a sort of relief, as they were yet to move a single pin from their shops in preparation for the appointed day.
It was however surprising to many of the shop owners and the residents as the officials of the ACTDA were nowhere to be found to start the demolition when the second deadline elapsed on February 24; a development that many understood to mean that the Authority had suspended the planned demolition because of the General Elections which kicked off on February 25 and ended on March 18.
But the residents and shop owners were taken by surprise when, barely four days after the elections, the officials of the ACTDA stormed the area with a caterpillar and started demolishing some structures in the area. This forced others whose structures were also marked to panic and call for assistance to evacuate their wares before the demolition could get to their shops or premises. It was learnt that this helped to minimize losses for some, while some were not so fortunate as they failed to take out a single ware from their shops before the demolition got to their shops.
Currently, over 80 shops, residential houses and other structures, have so far been demolished in the area, with many victims still struggling to rescue their trapped wares, while metal scrap dealers are having a field day as they feast on metal scraps from the demolished shops and buildings.
Some citizens whose shops where affected due to the demolition bared their minds to Fides. While some see the development as a welcome idea, others who did not, queried why the exercise was taking place at this time of great difficulty in the country.
A Nurse at Renas Pharmacy along the demolished area described the demolition as a welcome development, even as she expressed the hope the government would not demolish people’s property only to abandon the area. She said doing such would be heartbreaking for those whose shops were demolished.
She therefore urged the government to expedite work on the road as, according to her, the rainy season had already set in.
Another one, who simply gave her name as Blessing, said the demolition had caused more harm than good, as it had sent most of his neighbours to the village, while some were stranded and loitering along the road, looking for a way to survive.
‘The government should compensate them either by giving them somewhere else to stay or supporting them with money for their losses,’ she said.
A road side fruit seller, Ogechukwu Angela Okonkwo, said, ‘It’s true the demolition process affected us badly, but what the government is about to do is indeed for the betterment of the people.’
She advised the government to stick to the plan and not just giving them hope and later leaving them. ‘They should please end what they started properly and not stopping at the middle,’ she pleaded.
In a quest to find out the actual reason behind the demolition, Fides, met with the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of ACTDA, Mr. Ossy Onuko, after he visited the site to inspect the demolition.
But he said he had business with the media and directed this reporter to go and meet the governor, Prof Chukwuma Soludo, for explanation.
‘Please, please, I don’t have any business with the media; allow me to do my job, please. If you want an interview, go and meet the governor or the contractor,’ he tersely said as he banged his car door and zoomed off.
This reporter however approached another top official of ACTDA who spoke to her on the condition of anonymity.
According to the official, the demolition exercise was being carried out to create more space for the dualisation of the road.
His words, ‘The government wants to make the road to be a double lane and that is why you see this massive demolition to create more space for the road.’
Fides reports however that some of the structures at the road side were not demolished by ACTDA due to the electric poles and wire connections on the road side which would have affected power supply along the area if tampered with.
Meanwhile, given the public outcry and media blitz, on the shortness of the notice, ACTA has suspended the exercise and has given a grace period of one month.