By Egufe Yafugborhi, Port-Harcourt
A public notice by leaders of Umueye community in volatile Oyigbo Local Government Area, Rivers State, to destroy perceived obstructing structures to clear space for a road project has thrown residents into panic.
Some fear stricken landlords among property owners served the notice were already dismantling erected structures to salvage as much components for relocation of such structure rather that wait for reckless destruction of same by the community leaders.
The said community circular brewing commotion was signed by Elder Daniel Ogbuji, Chairman, Umueye Community, Nwankwo Chidiebere, Secretary, and Micheal Azuh, Youth Leader.
The document titled to “Whom It May Concern” read, “This is to inform you that your structure/building and sign boards are marked within the road map of the aforementioned name above.
“Therefore, you are advised to rearrange/remove that structure immediately to avoid demolishing it by ourselves for futuristic/developmental reasons especially forthcoming road grading in Umueye Road Phase 1 and 2.”
A resident of High Tension Area of the community, Policarp Jonna who was served the notice, said “The bearer who brought the circular told me Rivers State Government in partnership with Niger Delta Development Commission, (NDDC) have awarded contract for construction of the road and the community has NDDC mandate to remove structures that fall within the proposed road.”
Jonna wondered why youths of a community could usurp the powers of government and threatened to pull down properties under the guise of road construction.
Another resident, Chikwere Onoka, urging on Oyigbo Local Government and the State Government to step into the matter as to avert another break down of law and order in the area, wondered when it has become the place of community leaders to pull down residents’ property in the guise of road construction.
Yet another resident who pleaded anonymthe alleged, “The Oyigbo youths team who came to my house to hand over the circular directing me to remove my building for a proposed road construction threatened to bring down the building if I refuse to comply. What baffles me was that they came back demanding N100,000 from me to delist my building from demolition if I can part with the said amount”.
Meanwhile inquiries at the NDDC and the Rivers State Ministry of Urban Development gave no indication any urgent road project or delegated mandate for the community to pull down houses.
An NDDC source said, “The commission has not awarded any recent road contract in any part of Oyigbo while Rivers Commissioner for Urban Development, Ben Chioma, noted that though road construction does not fall under his Ministry, individuals or communities have no right to demolish property under the guise of road construction.
Chioma affirmed that only government reserves the right to acquire property under public interest and that before such properties are acquired, government will appoint a registered valuer to work out compensation for deserving property owners affected under the circumstance.