By Egufe Yafugborhi – Port Harcourt
More than three weeks after Rivers State government destroyed several shanties across nine waterfront settlements in various spots in Port Harcourt following an eviction notice, the majority of the over 1000 displaced residents remain homeless and helpless over the harsh impact of the decisive government action.
The affected areas include waterfronts in Abba, Elechi, Nnanka, Uruala, Affikpo, Ojike, Akuzu, Egede, Soku, streets, in Diobu suburbs of Port Harcourt City Local Government Area where several affected families still roam spared neighbourhoods in search of respite, some having lost valuable property, including shops filled with wares to the demolition.
The state government in the eviction notice before moving in the bulldozers had labelled the shanties as hideouts for oil theft and illegally refined petroleum products, other criminal activities and the need to improve on the state urban renewal drive among other reasons.
Eight days following the expiration of the quit order, the state government-led squads stormed the area with two bulldozers under the protection of fully armed security operatives, levelling every structure on sight to rubbles.
Baring their frustrations, one of the leaders of Nnanka waterfront, Napoleon Amoni, said: “We were surprised at what the government did to poor people. When we got information that the government was coming to demolish our houses. We thought it was a joke.“What we saw was bulldozers coming in. They brought down our houses. As you can see we do not have where to sleep. We are sleeping in people’s verandas.“As it is now, we are thinking of how to survive this. There is no money and we were not prepared for this. We are calling on them for help. We are stranded.”
Okoro Madugba, an affected landlord said: “Many of us have lived here for more than four decades and we do not have anywhere to go from here. The people that gave us the eviction notice did not give us enough time to look for where to relocate to.
“Instead we saw caterpillars in the morning and we were not allowed to remove our property. We are not sure which agency carried out this operation and we have not been compensated.”
Diobu Chiefs and Elders Forum has condemned the demolition of buildings at the Illuoabuchi waterfront by the state government.
The Forum in a statement in Port Harcourt by its Chairman, Chief Gift Otonnah, described the demolition and displacement of the residents as wicked.