By Tom Moses
IKONO—THE indiscriminate erection of phoney shrines, graves and miracle centres by some unscrupulous persons along the right of way of ongoing road projects in Akwa Ibom State is now a source of serious concern to the state government, which is currently embarking on road construction across the 31 Local Government Areas of the state.
Niger Delta Voice gathered that the surprise emergence of the shrines, tombs and miracle centres among others on the roads is an indication of the growing desperation of some individuals, who believe the government would settle them to evacuate those bogus structures for construction to take place.
They are said to see the government presence in their communities as a lifetime opportunity to get empowered, hence, the rush to put up anything on the road where construction or expansion work is on going.
But the government, it was gathered, sees the emergence of these impediments on the roads as a deliberate attempt by some to obstruct development and provision of infrastructure to advance the course of transformation of the rural areas to modern towns and cities to attract investors to the communities and the state in general.
To this end, the state government last week ordered the demolition of these annoying structures on roads under construction in Ikono Local Government Area.
The demolition order was given during an inspection of the 4.6 km Mbiafun Nkwongo-Nung Ukim road by the Commissioner for Works, Mr. Ephraim Inyang.
Inyang warned that what the government required from the people at this austere time was cooperation and not arm-twisting so as to enable government provide all the nooks and crannies of the state with developmental infrastructure and dividends of democracy.
Also, no fewer than 1,417 illegal structures including those whose owners had received compensation but refused to relocate to allow contractors handling the dualization of the 91.7 kilometre Uyo-Etinan Road and the 39.4 Etinan-Ndon Eyo Road in Etinan Local Government Area stretching to Awa-Iman in Onna Local Government Area to do their work, were demolished penultimate week by the Akwa-Ibom State Government with the support of youths from the respective local government areas.
Many of the erections, Niger Delta Voice learned sprang up immediately the government awarded contracts for the construction, expansion and modernization of the roads.
It was further gathered that even when the government became magnanimous and mobilised Estate Valuers to value the houses on the affected roads to compensate their owners, more phoney structures still sprang up after the Estate Valuers had completed the evaluation exercise. Also, some of them refused to relocate after they were paid compensation for their property thereby preventing the contractors from carrying on with their job.
Speaking while supervising the demolition exercise, the Commissioner for Works, Mr. Ephraim Inyang-Eyen lamented that the people of the area were invariably trying to obstruct development by refusing to relocate their houses after receiving compensation for them.
He said, those, who rushed to erect structures after the evaluation of the original houses on the roads were not sincere and as such would not be compensated.
The Commissioner said if these people, he described as “enemies of progress” are allowed to have their way, then, the government’s predetermined development projects would be stifled just as the contractors will not be able to deliver their jobs on time.
“There were many miracle houses that sprang up along that road map and government discovered that if it was to go ahead and pay those kind of compensations, the actual sums meant for the roads would have been lost and this government is not prepared to tell the people of Akwa-Ibom any story.
That informed the reason why I went on air to announce to Akwa-Ibom State people that those illegal structures that are being erected along Ekpene Ukpa, Awa Ntong, Mbioto, Awa-Iman, Ikot-Akpan Eshiet up to Mkpok would be demolished.
“I have invited you to come and witness this exercise so that nobody will wake up tomorrow to cook up spurious stories. What we have done so far, affects the magic and miracle houses, while the old buildings that government have not paid compensation are left. Now that we have taken away the magic houses, government is going to make efforts in the next two weeks to go back and pay the genuine property owners as we have always done,” the commissioner explained.
However, some of the persons whose property were affected during the demolition exercise said they were not aware of the planned demolition.
Mrs. Grace Okon, a business woman and one of the affected persons said she was not notified by the government of its intention to demolish their houses even as she lamented that compensation had not been paid to her by government for encroaching on her land and property.