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P/Harcourt landlords, business owners count losses as structures give way for N195bn road project

The N195 billion Port Harcourt ring road project is intended to provide an effective bypass to reduce inner city traffic gridlock. But the project, which…

The N195 billion Port Harcourt ring road project is intended to provide an effective bypass to reduce inner city traffic gridlock. But the project, which was initiated by the immediate past administration of Nyesom Wike, is impacting negatively on hundreds of residents, whose properties and business premises were destroyed to give way for the construction of the road. 

Daily Trust Saturday reports that the victims are crying that their properties were undervalued and the money they were paid was not adequate. 

The project involves the construction of a 50-kilometre dual carriage way that will connect six local government areas in the state, such as Port Harcourt, Obio Akpor, Ikwerre, Etche, Eleme and Ogu-Bolo. 

To enhance transportation efficiency, according to the state government, the ring road will involve six flyovers and river-crossing bridges. 

The project, which was awarded on July 2, 2023, is slated for completion within 36 months, with an estimated cost of N195bn.

At Eleme, our correspondent observed that many ancestral homes and other houses were pulled down to give way for the road project. Many of the houses that were partially affected are yet to be rebuilt by the owners given the difficult economic situation in the country.

A resident of Agbon Nchia Eleme , Emeka Chijoh,  said  all the lockup shops where he made money through rent were pulled down.

“My buildings, especially the lockup shops, were pulled down to give way for the ring road project. I am not against government’s development plans, but I feel that this particular project is not going to have any economic benefit to us. Properties affected by the construction were undervalued. 

“Those shops helped me a lot to take care of my family’s financial burden. How much compensation would be justifiable to the value of the properties, in terms of how much I realised from rent on a yearly basis. I think there are virgin areas in the state where the government can develop and open up for infrastructures,” he said.

Another resident whose properties were affected, Obari Peter, said he did not have the resources to rebuild his houses affected by the road construction.

“My house was partially affected by the road project and the compensation plans were undervalued. We were given parameters of space to remove to accommodate the project. Parts of the building were pulled down, but the money for compensation was nothing to write home about. Given the present economic situation in the country, I don’t have the money right away to rebuild the house.

“Building materials are very expensive, so it will be very difficult to carry out any reconstruction work now. I want the government to come to our aide by giving us enough fund to rebuild our houses,” he said.

In Port Harcourt, the story is the same. Residents of Aka Base in Rumuelumeni, Iwofe, Rumosi and other places, whose properties were affected, said the difficult economic situation in the country was affecting them drastically.

At Rumosi, those whose business places were affected, as well as property owners, said they were not finding the situation easy.

A business owner, Paul Eke, whose shop was affected, said they were displaced without compensation. 

“When the properties were marked for removal to give way for the project, I don’t think government had business owners who rented shops in their compensation plan. Owners of properties were paid compensation while those whose businesses were displaced were left in the lurk. I moved all my wares out when they wanted to pull down the building that housed my shop, and since then, I have found it very difficult to rent a shop. This situation is having a very big toll on my family because we are finding it difficult to cope,” he said.

Another resident whose property was affected said that the valuation of his house was nothing to write home about.

“I have a house and some lockup shops, which were affected by the road construction. Part of the buildings was affected while others were completely pulled down. The particular building that was affected partially is still there and has not been rebuilt. I don’t have money to rebuild the house because the money paid to me is nothing to write home about,” the resident, who pleaded anonymity, said.

A business owner along the route where the road will crisscross said his source of income had been put on hold since his shop was pulled down.

“Many businessmen and women who owned shops that stood on the right of way are counting their losses. I have not been able to find another shop and nobody has bordered to ask me my next line of action. As it stands now, I am finding it very difficult to feed my family because my source of income has been put on hold,” the businessman, who simply identified himself as Pius said.

A Port Harcourt-based property developer who did not want his name on print said the road project would not have any economic value.

He said, “I don’t think the ring road would have any significant socioeconomic impact on residents. The state government should embark on projects that would have direct bearing on the people. A project that crisscrosses communities does not bear any significant economic value. 

“This project was initiated by the immediate past administration of Wike for whatever reason best known to him, but I don’t see how this will improve the lives of those whose properties were affected.” 

The executive director of the Youth and Environmental Advocacy Centre (YEAC-Nigeria), Fyneface Dumnamene Fyneface, said it was obvious that the road project would not be of any significant economic benefit to the state. 

He said the project was not fundamentally different from the 12 flyovers built by the immediate past administration of Nyesom Wike, who said they were meant to bring economic benefits and investments to the state but none has been seen. 

He said, “Concentrating developmental projects in Port Harcourt is already suffocating the city. What Rivers State needs is the creation of new cities and not a ring road. If a new city was developed other than a ring road, demolishing people’s properties without adequate compensation due to undervaluation in government’s usual way of land grabbing would have been avoided.

“The token being paid as compensation to those whose properties were destroyed is not even up to the value of land being grabbed in the city under the guise of Land Use Act, 1979. The government should pay adequate compensation to property owners on the right of way to mitigate uprising and hardship.”

We’ll pay compensation to property owners – Fubara

Efforts made by our reporter to speak with the Rivers State Commissioner for Information, Mr Joseph Johnson on the  issues relating to compensation of property owners along the right of way of Port Harcourt ring road project was not successful as he did not pick his calls when our reporter called his land. 

He did not also respond to text massage sent to him on the matter.

But Governor Similanayi Fubara at the flag off of the road project said nobody will be left out in payment of compensation in the road project.

The governor said all those whose properties were affected in the project will be duly compensated. 

 

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