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Residents, government disagree over relocation order

Some residents of Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, are now at daggers drawn with the state government after it ordered them to vacate their…

Some residents of Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, are now at daggers drawn with the state government after it ordered them to vacate their houses that are threatened by gully erosion.

Erosion has over the years eaten deep into some areas posing a threat to many buildings. Already about 50 houses are about to cave in while 10 other structures are also under threat.

The areas worst hit by the gullies include Asutan Street, Eka Street, Ikpa road, Udo Inwang Street off Nwaniba in Ewet Community, Afaha Oku Community, Etim Umana and St Luke’s Hospital, Anua.

The state government directed affected residents to relocate to safer places, though no provision has been made for the relocation.

One of the affected residents, Mr Austin Etop, who lives along Bassey Eta Street, told our correspondent that it was not enough for the government to ask them to vacate their residences, without providing a remedial arrangement to ameliorate their sufferings.

Etop explained also that the ravine in Asutan Street had already caused many houses in the area to cave in, and expressed fear that if nothing was urgently done this rainy season, many people will be rendered homeless.

He noted that successive commissioners for environment had visited the gully site with promises of fixing the menace but none had done so.

“The primary responsibility of the government is the provision of welfare and protection of lives and properties. We are happy that the government has constructed these roads you see here but, before then, we duly notified the contractors and other government representatives of the existing ravine which was seriously encroaching into the houses and they promised to work on it.

“The roads were commissioned without addressing that problem of erosion gully down there, though with a promissory note that something will be done.  The former Commissioner for Environment, Dr. Essien, has visited the site with a promise to do something; even the present commissioner, Mr Sampson Ekong had visited with the same promise but nothing has been done.

“This ravine has become a serious threat to the residents of this area. I don’t want to be pessimistic but if the situation remains unattended, the July, August, September rains may leave many people here homeless,’’ he said.

Another resident, Queen Williams, said her family lived in perpetual fear, due to the gully which had already caved into her home. “This is our ancestral home. We inherited it from our grandmother but the erosion has already caused the building to cave in. Government has marked the building and asked us to vacate, but with a promise to give us something to get another place.

“Unfortunately since that time, nothing has been done and we don’t have any place to go to and we can’t even sleep with our two eyes closed.”

Another resident, Akpan Uko, said the erosion has been worsened by poorly terminated storm water drainage which channeled rain water from Wellington Bassey Way, and other adjoining streets, into the ravine.

Also speaking, Secretary of Uyo Village Council, Mr Sylvester Akpan, who insisted that government must make alternative arrangement for those affected said, “They cannot just drive them away like that. Government should be a little sympathetic to their plight.”

In his reaction, the Commissioner for Environment and Petroleum Resources, Mr. Ekong Sampson, said it was better for the residents to relocate to a safer place while waiting for government’s assistance.

“The dead does not pay or receive rent. Government is putting measures in place for assistance, and for them to enjoy such assistance they must naturally be alive and in a safe place too,” he said.

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