By Anayo Okoli
Lamentations and grief have trailed the demolition of structures considered to be illegally located by the Enugu State Government, including those inside residential communities in Enugu metropolis.
Scores of the structures have some far been pulled down in the last one week the exercise started, leaving in its trail wailings and lamentations from the owners of the structures, particularly petty traders.
It was a pitiful sight wt the popular Artisan Market, Wednesday, as some traders in the market wept openly as they lamented their losses in the exercise.
Enugu State had recently announced that it would embark on the demolition exercise in other to restore the master plan of the city and maintain the esthetic.
In fact, the government said it would demolish at least 264 buildings along Timber Market, Abakpa Nike in Enugu East Local Government Area of the state for environmental infractions alone, which would include residential buildings and shops built without compliance with the master plan of the area.
The Chairman, Enugu Capital Territory Development Authorities, Mr Ken Onoh had taken a tour of the locations where the demolition is going on and noted that the exercise was inevitable due to the urgent need to abet nuisance in the area by restoring the original master plan of the areas affected.
The exercise would also affect petrol stations not properly located as well as gas plants.
However, some people have faulted the Government for embarking on this exercise this period, saying it would inflict more hardship on the people, most of who are petty business operators.
One of them, John Ngwu, said even though no time was best to demolish a business structure, he was of the opinion that the Government would have given them at least 6 months and also provide a market for the petty traders.
Lamenting over her fate, a trader in one of demolished structures, who gave her name as occupants, Christopher Chioma said, “on Saturday some people came and started marking our property and said that we should vacate within 72 hrs. They didn’t tell us the offence we committed. We have been here for three days trying to find out what the problems are but nobody is attending to our concerns.
“This property belongs to an individual and we are paying rent. I sell drinks and pepper soup. We are not selling on the roadside and this place is inside the street.
“I am sleeping here in my shop. I don’t have any other place go to. I borrowed money to start-up this business and it is not up to three months I started the business and government is destroying it. Now I don’t know what to do”, she fumed.
The Chairman of Building Materials Association, Abakpa Nike, Mr Amarachi Ugwu has appealed to the state government to rescind the decision of demolition the structures, saying the demolition of the marked structures would affect the source of livelihood of over one million people including the traders and their dependents.
The Government insisted that the exercise was embarked for the good of the State as according to the Special Adviser on Information to the Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, Mr Steve Oruruo, it was done pursuant to the Enugu State 2009 Law No. 5 as amended.
According to him, it was a very difficult decision for the governor to take as he shared in their pains of the people, but said the exercise had to go because according to him the general benefit of the demolition outweighed its collateral damage.
He said to succumb to pleas and pressures from affected people would “amount to allowing and compensating illegality. There should be an adequate penalty for nonconformists who defy environmental laws and block waterways”.