For the second time in the past six months, residents of Okuku New Layout, off Liyel Imoke Drive in Okuku Yala LGA are about to be forcefully and violently evicted from their houses by agents of the Cross River State government. Families are about to be internally displaced and some rendered as destitute in their own land.
A few days ago, in the early hours, residents of the neighborhood woke up to their surprise to see agents of the State Ministry of Lands with heavily armed security men marking several buildings for demolition within the New Layout with the inscription “Illegal”.
Officials of the ministry who came in their droves for the unjust exercise neither cited any reasons nor environmental concerns as well as security challenges against the landlords as the reason for the planned demolitions, which is about to take place.
“We woke up and saw agents of the state ministry of Lands entering the neighbourhood without notice. We went out to inquire what they wanted inside our neighbourhood. They told us that they have come to mark our houses for demolition, and when we asked why, they said it was an order from the government. We tried pleading with them and they told us to wait for their boss; when the man arrived he ordered them to continue marking our buildings as “Illegal”, a landlord said.
The planned demolition of houses by the State Government especially during the COVID-19 pandemic is quite callous, wicked, and most horrendous. The government of Sir Ayade Benedict should not preside over the destruction of legitimate houses built by indigenes and non-indigenes of Yala by carrying out actions that put parents and their children at risk.
At this excruciating period, the Cross River state government cannot chose to hide under the cover of the lockdown to unjustly demolish the houses of its citizens. A government that was supposedly serious about fighting the outbreak would have at least waited for the scourge to be contained before taking such insensitive and unacceptable action against its citizens.
“It shows the governor as having some other intentions against the Yala people which he is prepared to pursue no matter its consequences on the lives of the citizenry. This is condemnable and most horrendous”, a house owner Mr Patrick Wonah said.
He asked: “Did the government consider the plight of the affected citizens? Did it consider where they will stay thereafter? Did they imagine the exposure this will be for several families and individuals? Did they consider its implications on the entire struggle to contain the pandemic?
How can you tell people to lockdown at home but you go ahead and mark their homes for demolition? In other nations of the world, homeless individuals are provided with accommodation at this time, but in Nigeria, especially Cross River State, people are about to made homeless by the same government.
This is clearly contradictory, and Governor Ayade should take pre-emptive actions to protect these lives.
The State Government can correct this by being more sensitive to the yearnings and aspirations of its people. Government must halt this violent and unlawful attempt of demolitions and forced evictions of residents of the neighborhood without any consultation, adequate notice, compensation or alternative housing being offered to those affected.