Rejuvenating Abia after 32 years: Alex Otti's giant strides in 100 days
Otti addressing residents of Aba

From PETER OKORE, Umuahia

Eventually, the demolition of structures along the Ossah- Tower entry road into Umuahia, the Abia state capital, which should have commenced, Tuesday,15/08/2023), has been extended by three weeks.

The government arrived at this decision sequel to to pleas from natives, property-owners on the mapped –out areas along the proposer 6-lane Ossah road and general public .

They , individually and collectively, prayed the state government to extend the timeframe as well as paying them compensation before the demolition, considering the logistics and inconveniences it will cost to vacate their ancestral homes, where they have lived all through their lifetime.

The cheering news of the shift in date of commencement of demolition of affected structures at the proposed road expansion, was part of the resolution reached at the end of this week’s State Executive Council(EXCO) meeting chaired by Governor Alex Otti.

Briefing news men at the Government House Umuahia after the meeting, the Commissioner for Information and Culture, Prince Okey Kanu hinted that consultations between Government and affected communities were ongoing and yielding positive results. He added that the notice as to how much compensation to be paid to the owners of affected structures would be issued soon.

Contributing during the session, the Commissioner for Lands and Housing, Mr. Chaka Chukwumerije disclosed that all envisaged affected structures have been enumerated and valued, stressing that before the demolition commences, compensations would be paid in tranches.

He explained that the essence of moving the date of the demolition, which was billed for 14th August 2023,was to give the affected persons time to relocate as the government of Dr. Alex Otti is a responsive one. In his words: “we are not in a hurry to demolish , but to develop”.

Indeed, the decision of the present administration of the state to expand the two-lane Ossah road to 6 lanes, to stop at Okpara Squire, from the Enugu- Port Harcourt Expressway, is part of efforts of the new administration to build a new Abia. The major reason being for the aesthetics of the city, make for free flow of traffic and to attract investors into the state.

At the moment, government is still on her intensive enlightenment awareness- creation campaigns and has held Townhall meetings with the affected communities and owners of properties and structures there to sensitize them on the reasons for and modus operandi of the Road project. During each of the sensitization and Townhall meetings, Government continuedto assure he people that she would pay compensations for the 160 structures already mapped out for demolition.

Ofcource, this measure to expand the road and improve infrastructures forms part of Governor Alex Otti’s economic development- agenda, in addition to giving Umuahia the desired beauty of a state capital. However, these do not go without pains and sentiments.

BusinessHallmark understands that the development of Umuahia as the capital of Abia state is experiencing difficulties now because it had suffered a set-back over the years. Development of the original location of the state capital had lost all chances under the then PDP-controlled government, due to wrong priorities by that governments. It has become a glaring fact that previous administrations bluntly refused to recognize and implement the contents of the “Abia Charter of Equity”,crafted by the Founding Fathers of the state. For our records, however, only about two of such fathers are alive today to witness how their well-thought-out ideas and recommendations were abandoned and, probably, thrown to the winds by politicians.

Indeed, the Charter sought to foster closer relationships between the two ancestral Old Bende and Aba divides for good. That Charter had recommended, among many, that a new Abia state capital be cited outside Umuahia and Aba towns,respectively, for obvious reasons. Like the federal capital territory of Abuja, the Nation’s capital, the Abia founding fathers had recommended the empty landspace between Umuahia and Aba, for the state capital city. The measure was to afford the new capital city enough land space for developments, without any inhibitions, including inconveniencing the two ancient cities, which the founding fathers had predicted should be allowed to grow and expand on their own.

It is also noteworthy to know that the Charter was one of the essential documents required by the then military administration before granting the request for the creation of the state. Consequent to the importance of the document and devoid of any mis-interpretations by politicians, the fathers requested that on coming to power, the first sitting Abia stata House of Assembly should domicile the Charter for implementation by succeeding governments.

But, behold, since the creation of Abia state ,succeeding Abia Houses of Assembly have woefully failed to respect or obey the request of their founding fathers by making that document a Law. On its own, the state executive arm of government feigned ignorance of the document and refused to implement any portion of it. What happened was that all about the Charter was abandoned and developments stalled in Abia for years. Assumed developments were apparently seen to be at the peripheral. All governments that came and left, untill date, merely “played at the entrance”, deceived the innocent electorate, allegedly carted away the people’s money and exited.

An un-informed visitor to Umuahia recently, who pleaded anonymity, described the state capital, Umuahia as “a glorified village”, 32 years of her creation as a state capital. Another, who is a believer in the contents of the Abia Charter of Equity, avowed that the failure of Abia State House of Assembly to domicile the Charter , as pleaded for, by the founding fathers of Abia, is responsible for the impunity, confusion and crisis that have bedeviled Abia polity in recent- times.

However, to make the 6-lane track achievable the state commissioner for Lands and Housing, Mr. Chaka Chukwumerije remained the head of the public enlightenment and sensitization team reaching- out to the communities and property owners that would be affected by the road project. If this project is realized, it would be the first empirical landmark structure in Umahia as a state capital, while “Isigate” still poses a challenge to road-user in Umuahia.

Speaking at public enlightenment fora at Eziama na Mgbaja, Okpu Isingwu, Uzzzi na Akpizu, and Isingwu autonomous communities, separately, as well as at joint Townhall meetings at Ochendo International Conference centre, Oguruba layout, Umuahia, the commissioner made it known to the people that his Ministry had already concluded the enumeration and valuation of buildings/structures in conjunction with external valuers.

He affirmed , anywhere he spoke, that government would pay compensations within the ambit of the law, adding that the Alex Otti administration is sensitive and responsive, hence the need to carry out sensitization visits before commencing demolition of properties.

His words:”We will give a human face to all the decisions taken. Governor Otti believes in following due process, even though he is in a hurry to develop the state”.

Adding her voice during the meetings ,Mrs. Oge Maduka, who represented the Attorney General (AG) of the State, explained that the road expansion project was for public interest and everything would be done within the provisions of the law.

She noted that the inclusion of the AG in the sensitization team, was a pointer that government would not violate the rights of people and would ensure that the execution of the project in a peaceful environment.

Both the Special Assistant to the Governor on Lands and Housing, Pastor Okorougo Aji and the Senior Special Assistant on Homeland Security said that this administration would not disappoint Ossah people and other affected communities.

In their respective remarks, the Chairman of Nigerian Institute of Town Planners(NITP), Mr. Steve Nwazue and a director in the Ministry of Lands and Housing,explained that the impending demolition exercise would be done step- by- step with guiding rules.

Nwazue disclosed that demolition notice had already been served on owners of affected properties, adding that a second notice has also been served..

The traditional rulers of and community leaders of the affected communities, who spoke at the events, including Eze Ochiabuto Emenike of Mgbaja-Ossah, gave kudos to the government initiative to give Umuahia the befitting status of a state capital.

However, they all appealed to government to give human face to the project , pay compensations to those whose inherited ancestral lands would go into the road project as well as those who genuinely own properties but have no Certificate of Occupancy(C-of-O).
Meanwhile, as part of efforts to enhance the aesthetics of the state capital, Government has directed that all Trucks, Shanties and Shanty-shops located from the NNPC station to Ubakala junction on the Enugu- Port Harcourt Express-Way, be moved into the Ohiya ultra modern Motor park, on the same route. A Government statement issued by the CPS, Mr. Kazie Uko, explained that the measure is still to make for free-flow of traffic, beauty of the state capital as well as checkmate the hide-out of criminals and criminal activities along the highway. These efforts by government are calculated to give Umuahia a befitting entry facelift, have been welcomed by many and government is receiving praises , particularly, from Abians, well-wishers, residents and visitors to the state.

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