Obohia Demolition Crisis: Be Fair
A road construction that should be a thing of joy to all is turning out to be a source of acrimony between some citizens in Obohia community in Ukwa East Local Government Area of Abia State and the Ministry of the Niger Delta over alleged shoddy handling of surveys and compensation before the commencement of the project.
The Ministry had awarded the contract for the construction of a dual carriage way that will run through Obehie and Azumini in Abia State and culminate in Ukanafun in Akwa Ibom State to be constructed by the China Civil Engineering Construction Company (CCECC).
It will be a vital regional trunk road in the oil producing belt. Happily, the people whose land and physical property are being appropriated or demolished for the construction of the laudable project are not opposed to it. Rather, some of them, as exemplified by the Okerenta family, are alleging discriminatory handling of surveys and compensation packages as, according to them, the exercise was not carried out transparently.
As a result, owners of some compounds that were partially demolished and rendered useless or unsafe are demanding for full compensation to enable them relocate to alternative sites. Following the apparent deaf ears upon which their pleas have fallen, those affected by the partial demolition and compensation are threatening legal action.
We are calling on the Ministry to look into this issue with the urgency it deserves and ensure that all those whose homes or economic trees and farms were partially or wholly removed for the overall public interest are properly compensated in line with the laws governing this kind of exercise.
This is a simple process that should not be allowed to raise unnecessary dust. Some of the complainants are alleging that the expansion of the road to a dual carriage has necessitated the adjustment of electric high tension lines too close to their homes for safety.
Under environmentally safe procedures, such buildings should be demolished and their owners adequately compensated to enable them relocate. By refusing to do what is right the citizens are being exposed to double jeopardy, whereby they are losing their homes and also being exposed to danger.
It will be a sad day if eventually the affected persons are forced to seek legal protection. This may lead to avoidable delay in the construction of the road. Cases like this have in the past led to the outright abandonment of projects while people whose homes were partially demolished were victimised as a result of insensitive or corrupt shenanigans of public officers.
We urge the Minister of the Niger Delta, Elder Godswill Orubebe, to step into this matter and resolve it amicably.