Stephen Ukandu, Umuahia
Abia State Government said it had begun the payment of compensation to owners of structures affected in the proposed six-lane Ossah Road expansion project.
Gov. Alex Otti, had about two months ago, hinted of his plans to expand the Ossah road which serves as the major entrance route to Umuahia the state capital from the Enugu Port Harcourt Expressway.
Commissioner for Lands and Survey Abia State, Mr Chaka Chukwumerije, has said that the State Government had commenced compensation for the structures affected by its proposed six-lane Ossah Road expansion.
The Commissioner who disclosed this during a town-hall meeting with the affected property owners at the International Conference Centre Umuahia, said the State Government had decided to pay compensations first before embarking on demolition.
He said that the decision was in response to appeals by members of the public, adding that the Alex Otti-led Government is responsible and responsive, and will always consider the well-being of the people.
The Commissioner who disclosed that about 130 structures including perimeter fences and shops were affected, said that demolition and real work on the road project would begin very soon.
According to him, names of all the affected property owners have been captured and documented, assuring that payment will begin before the end of Friday.
He added that values for each property had equally been negotiated with the representative of the various property owners and Government appointed Consultant, assuring that nobody will be shortchanged.
The Commissioner, however, said that Government was ready to attend to anybody whose property had not been captured in the initial capturing, urging such people not to hesitate to come to the Ministry for discussions.
He informed the audience that contrary to the initial plans of the Ministry, Governor Otti had decided to approve full and one-time lump payment of compensation for all the affected structures.
“We have a responsible and responsive Government that has human face. The Governor has approved full payment of compensation instead of paying in phases. Every affected structure has been marked, and nobody will be shortchanged.
“From today you will start getting your alerts. The names of all the affected persons have been captured and the Governor has given his approval. The payments are being uploaded by the Accountant General of the state.”
“We are not in a hurry to demolish but we are in a hurry to develop,” he declared.
He, therefore, pleaded with the people to cooperate with Government and relocate from structures marked for demolition to enable Government commence work on the project.
The Commissioner explained that the proposed road expansion was aimed at giving Umuahia the befitting look and aesthetics as a state capital.
On whether property owners without Power of Attorney or Certificate of Occupancy would also be compensated, Mrs Chika Obinwa-Nwezeaku, who represented the Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General of the state, said that every confirmed property owner with or without such documents would be compensated.
She explained that most of the affected structures are ancestral buildings, hence, the magnanimity of Government to overlook certain requirements.
Meanwhile, one of the affected property owners and former Commissioner for Documentation, Mr Ugochukwu Emezue, thanked the state government for toeing the part of honour by promising to pay full compensation.
Emezue, however, said they were yet to receive payments for the compensation, arguing that it is only when “we receive alerts that we can confirm what Government is saying.”
He pleaded with Government to give the affected property owners more time to relocate “after receiving their payments before demolition begins.”
“We are not averse to development, and if the Governor has chosen to expand the road, it’s a welcome development. Our major issue is compensation. If we get compensated as promised, that will be alright.
“But they should also give us some time to relocate after getting the payment. It’s development and we have got to make some sacrifices.”
Another property owner from Mgbaja Ossah, Mr Kelvin Nwaobiala, thanked Government for paying compensation for the affected structures, saying it would be a huge relief to the owners.
He thanked Government for “giving human face to the situation.”
In an interview with our Correspondent, another property owner, Elder Obioma Okechukwu, commended Gov Otti for deciding to pay compensation to mitigate the plights of the owners.
“We have not seen it this way before. It means our Governor has human feelings. He has given us a lot of hope.”
Umuahia the Abia State capital has suffered infrastructural deficiency following gross neglect by previous administrations.
Otti has promised to transform the city as well as other parts of the state to a modern state.