Our people have a saying that when you see people carrying another person’s corpse, for all you care,they may be carrying a piece of wood. It does not concern you because you have nothing to with the corpse. One day you will carry the corpse of someone dear to you, then you will feel what others who have carried corpses of their beloved ones feel.
All this time the Okorocha government has been carrying out random and arbitrary demolitions of people’s property here and there and I had not given the exercise a second thought until today.
The other night (Feb 11th), I got four different calls from people in my village, saying that Bulldozers were at work and that they had marked the fence of our family house which is located on the Owerri- Orlu rd, for demolition today.
The Owerri Orlu road is a federal road, but our Governor had earlier declared his intention to widen and dualise it and collect a refund from the Federal Government.
I don’t want to ask if all the state roads have been fixed, or if all the road works going in in places where demolitions had been carried out have been completed. I also do not want to suggest or advise the Government not to spread itself too thin by opening up too many fronts.
So I went to the village to see what was going on. True, the demolitions were on. Fences ,houses, shanties, trees and what have you, were all being uprooted by the mighty Bulldozer, with the poor owners looking on helplessly.
I put together a small group of persons including our Town Union president and we went looking for those in charge, to find out the criteria they used to determine which houses should go and why they were not following the due process of demolitions which is to value the property, pay compensation and then,demolish.
The guy we saw said they had given notice two weeks ago, by marking the structures to be demolished. (A lie. Mine was marked only yesterday) He said that they were acting on the orders of the Governor and the demolitions must go on. He said this with such arrogance and finality that I had to ask him if the Governor was God.
When I told him that marking a structure was not enough, and that the structure had to be recorded, photographed, valued and compensation paid, he became annoyed and accused me of instigating the people and making inflammatory statements.
Another of his colleagues who had been going around trying to extort money from some of the people whose structures had been marked, promising to help them evade the Bulldozers, told me that I can go to court. That they had many cases in court and that nothing has happened and nothing will happen.
To cut a long story short, we managed to get a ‘stay of execution’ as the Lawyers would say, until their big men meet with our Town Union executive to fashion the way forward.
I am not against having my property demolished for purposes of development, all I ask is that I (and others) be compensated before such demolitions take place as we did not commit any crimes by putting up those structures.
I really feel for all those whose buildings and structures have been destroyed under this climate of impunity and I think time has come for us to insist that things be done properly. We are not under a military regime, and even military regimes paid compensation before acquiring or demolishing people’s property.
Speak up, because it may be your turn tomorrow as it is my own today.
By: George Emeghara
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