By Dennis Agbo
The Executive Chairman of Enugu Capital Territory Development Authority, ECTDA, Dr Josef Onoh in this Interview responds to issues arising from the recent upheavals caused by his agency’s enforcement of Town Planning regulations in the Coal city capital.
Why did the Enugu Capital Territory suddenly wake up to enforce town planning regulations?
The Enugu Capital Territory Development Authority, ECTDA, has been regulating development within the capital territory of the state, but some elements in defiance to obeying law and order decided to pretend that they were not aware that the capital territory has been doing their job.
Why do you think a lot of eyebrows are being raised now over the demolitions?
The eyebrows are being raised now because, for the first time after a lot of tolerance and accommodation, government has decided to strictly enforce the law as enshrined in capital territory in respect of development control; and sadly, a lot of lawbreakers who may not be comfortable in the ambience of their lawbreaking activities are now raising eyebrows and if they have moral or legal justification and feel they were unjustly treated, they have the courts, but I haven’t seen any go to the court.
ALSO READ: Demolitions: Fr Mbaka blasts Ugwuanyi
Are you expecting some to go to court?
You cannot go to court when you are standing on illegality.
How true is the allegation of selective enforcement in the exercise?
We live in an age of social media furry but I am sure I have not had evidence of such action on my table. The capital territory does not respond to hearsay or join issues.
There are equally complaints of short notices, what time frame do you usually give before execution?
On assumption of office, we went into full implementation of abetment of nuisance within the capital territory and I will tell you that majority, 99.9 per cent, of the places we abet the nuisances had the previous marking of the capital territory, but in their illegality, some chose to paint the removal notices. None can claim they haven’t had the removal notice spanning for over one year or at least for a minimum of six months prior to now? For shanties, we give 72 hours, for corporate buildings it is 21 days and for those building unapproved or places without proper documentation or places that could cause a natural disaster, we may deal according to the urgency of the problem.
ALSO READ: As Ugwuanyi sets new eyes on Coal City
There are some doubts that in an actual case, the Enugu master plan does exist, does it?
Sadly, anybody who says there is no master plan for Enugu is a visitor. There are a lot of functional illiterates parading and talking without facts. Enugu State, same as Lagos State is one of the few states with a master plan and the master plan for Enugu State was first designed in 1911 and the plan has been complied with from 1911 to the next acquisition of 1915 agreement, to the 1917 agreement, to 1924 Ogui agreement, to the 1929 Abor forest agreement and up to other subsequent acquisitions by the Nigeria Coal Corporation, spanning all the way from 1909 onwards to 1974. Enugu has the best Master plan designed by the colonials. If you go to Coal Camp it’s there; if you go to the whole Ogui, GRA, the Iva valley forest reserve.
Is it that colonial master plan you are following now?
The master plan within Enugu, with the exception of some new cities and some variations done in some old master plans are what we follow till date. There have been a lot of variations with subsequent governments because the population grew and that same master plan of 1911 upwards was followed in the expansion. Where there are some changes in the master plan, the state normally goes for variation and so given and granted, there can be changes, but I can tell you that Enugu is one of the best cities in Nigeria with a well-designed master plan.
Is the present location of Polo Shopping Mall part of that modification?
For Shoprite to exist means there must have been a modification in the old master plan based on overriding public interest.
Why is it that some strategic government reserves have been converted to private enterprises such as in Independence layout and other places?
Independence layout is actually an ancestral home of Ogui community with Ugwuaji. They should not confuse it with the ones acquired by the then government of Eastern Nigeria.
What options are left for the people being dislocated from the streets to go into an organised market?
There was never an allocation or anticipation for these people to come with Aba and Onitsha container mentality, to take over pedestrian walkways with their containers. There is nowhere in the state laws or master plan that says container is growing business. If you truly want to engage in businesses, there are shops in the main market, New Haven Market, Abakpa Market and others. You don’t just take laws into your hands and put a container in a pedestrian walkway.
What succour or human face approach is government applying for these people that are being dislocated?
I am yet to be educated on what human face means for the greater good of humanity. Let us not confuse ourselves with the accommodation of nuisance to be substituted with a human face. We should do the right thing because when our people leave Enugu to Lagos State, Kaduna, Abuja, they appreciate the serenity. They travel abroad and if these people were adopting the so-called human face, which is an excuse and emotional blackmail they use against the government, they are the same people that will come back and insult the same government to say it has failed.
What will happen to cluster areas such as Abakpa, Garriki, Agbani road?
We have decided to give everybody from the 1st of November to the 1st of January 2020 to relocate and obey the law and abet the nuisance themselves. After January 1st, the Capital Territory will not be intimidated or blackmailed. Under my watch, we shall go into full abetment of nuisances. We owe no apology to anybody in the discharge of our duty but we must sanitise Enugu. The places you mentioned, what I can assure is that by January if they do not conform to the law, we will do it for them.
The population in those areas is thick, where do you want them to go to?
If you go to a place like Mayor (Agbani road), they have a market but they have refused to relocate to the market. You see what happened at Abakpa Timber Market where they brought their shops to the road and left 80 per cent of the market unoccupied. So the market in Abakpa can still contain a lot of people, same the new Mayor Market, Kenyetta but we are still putting into consideration that there is a growing population and we are making sure that new layouts that are being set will have markets.
What word of succour do you have for the people?
A Christmas gift from the capital territory is that we shall not commence any further demolition from now (November 7 2019) to the 1st of January 2020 and as I wish them a merry Christmas and a happy New Year. I also assure them that demolition will continue in earnest in compliance with the law establishing capital Territory in abetting the nuisance if they do not comply.
Does the government have any compensation plans for victims?
Well, people with genuine claims, the government of Enugu State under His Excellency, Rt. Hon Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, has set up a committee and this committee to entertain people who have genuine claims and if found that you deserve compensation, those people will be compensated. I must thank those who have complied such as Kenyetta market, Abakpa Timber, Trans Ekulu residence, most especially Damija.