At about 11.30am Tuesday June 26, 2012, a maze of dark crowd hovered in the ambience of the Abonnema waterfront in Port Harcourt. It was another demolition exercise orchestrated by the Rivers State government, making Abonnema wharf to go the way of Njemanze which was destroyed and kept fallow, rendering thousands homeless. Needless to say, the exercise which went off immediately saw thousands of residents losing millions via property destroyed, people rendered homeless and those in the miniature business of hawking, barbing and artisan-like trades rendered jobless. It was sheer wickedness, according to observers .
Some of the landlords who gave their names as James Mgboita and Chief Kalu Thompson who identified themselves as owners of about 63 rooms, said this state government has not concluded arrangements for compensation and that unknown to them suddenly received phone calls to come and witness the demolition of their buildings where no single property was taken away from the occupied rooms.
Briefing our senior correspondent, the young landlord said other landlords have been paid but they have not been settled on the ground that one side of the wall of their building where the state government marked during the enumeration and evaluation exercise fell down which brought about the delisting of their names at the peak of the evaluation exercise. According to him since then, they have made spirited and frantic efforts to see the commissioner in-charge of the exercise all to no avail. However, he said, an inkling of hope came when they were told that the state government would re-enlist their names for the compensation before the demolition exercise. Painfully, they just received phone calls from their neighbours on Tuesday that already the bulldozers were in operation on their buildings.
He said it was an act of wickedness before the Almighty God, crying to God not to leave out fighting for them.
However, another side to the story has it that some residents were struggling to save some of their vital property when the bulldozers were in action, pulling down the buildings while some could not even remove their clothings from their wardrobes as some had their generating sets crushed by the rampaging earth-moving machines.
Speaking with The Newswriter, some residents who lamented over the unpleasant situation, said they were told that the demolition will not take place again which dissuaded them from carrying away their property and suddenly, just two days ago, they sighted some stern-looking camouflage-wearing soldiers who they were meant to understand came simply to secure the place as a result of sporadic gun shots in the area.
Incidentally they said that the gunshots prior to this time were never heard of. Of course no pre-information was given to them regarding the demolition plans hence everybody went to work as usual.
Surprisingly, they started receiving distress phone calls from where they had gone in search of their means of livelihood that the bulldozers had started bringing down their buildings and homes and apparently it also dawned on them then that the soldiers they had seen some two days before had strictly come to secure the bulldozers and secure the place for demolition.
Meanwhile the demolition is still in progress and no civil protests against the ongoing exercise by the Rivers State government as at the time of filing this report.