By Izunna Okafor, Awka
Commercial sex workers and other roadside traders operating along the Abakaliki Street in Awka, Anambra State and its environs, were, on Friday, thrown into discomfort, as the state government stormed the street with bulldozer to demolish the chalets and other illegal shanties in the Street.
The demolition exercise which started at about 12.pm, was carried out by an agency of the state government, the Awka Capital Territory Development Authority (ACTDA) amid airtight security, comprising heavily-armed local vigilante members, the police and members of Operation Clean and Healthy Anambra (OCHA Brigade), whose presence helped to ensure calmness and undistorted enforcement throughout the entire period of the exercise.
Residents and denizens of the area were also seen shrugging as they watched the exercise and sympathized with the victims who were lamenting and watching helplessly as their shops (containers and shanties) were being crushed to naught.
Some of the shop owners in the area were also seen, rushing and evacuating some of the wares in their shops before the demolition could get to there; while some benevolent individuals were seen assisting some of the victims to recover the remnants of their goods and properties from the demolished shops.
When contacted on the essence of the exercise, the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of ACTDA, Ven. Amaechi Okwuosa said the demolition exercise was in tandem with the state government’s commitment to safeguarding lives and property of the citizens, and also falls in line with the Authority’s primary mandate of giving the Awka Capital Territory a befitting outlook.
He explained that the shanties were constructed under the high tension cables, which is unhealthy, condemnable, and strictly prohibited by the law, because of the dangers associated with it and the effects of the emissions from high tension cables. While noting that even government itself cannot build under the high tension cables, he said apart from incidences of electrocutions and fires, the high tension lines are known to emit signals that are very dangerous to the human body.
According Ven. Okwuosa, the owners and occupants of those shanties were earlier served several warnings and given enough grace to vacate the area before the demolition, but they defiantly ignored and neglected the notices.
He said, “We’ve been warning them for a very long time, posted notices there, telling them to leave, but they neglected that. We gave them the first 14-day ultimatum, gave them the second 14 days, gave them additional 7days, and gave them another complete one month.”
He further explained that the exercise will be sustained and extended to other areas, including Agu Awka, where they had carried out similar work before, to serve as deterrent to others.
While noting that the government is not indulging in the exercise to hurt or cause hardship for the people, but doing so for their own good and safety; the ACTDA helmsman also advised those who are embarking on such unauthorized construction to desist from it, as the agency will not relent in delivering its mandate, both in terms of enforcement.
Some of the roadside traders whose shops were demolished, Mrs. Ebere Igwe (a beer parlour owner) and Nancy Okafor (a food vendor) acknowledged that they were served several warnings earlier, but said the government took them by surprise and should have given them more time to get shops elsewhere.
On their own parts, a mechanic workshop owner in the area, Mr. Obinna Nwafor; a barber shop owner, Mr. Lucky Onuigbo, and a provision store owner, popularly known as Papa Ejima lamented that their shops were not under the high tension but were also demolished during the exercise. They claimed that government of ex-Governor Willie Obiano’s never touched their shops and other shops in their own area whenever it came to demolish shanties in the area throughout his eight years in office, and therefore wondered why the present administration of Governor Chukwuma Soludo would do so. They also said they were never notified nor served any notice or warning prior to the demolition.
Low tone discussions of two salaciously-dressed female spectators (purported to be commercial sex workers) on the effects of the demolition were also overheard. Some excerpts from their discussions include: “Babe, work no go dey this night oo”, “I dey tell you, even throughout this weekend self”, “How we go take survival am?”, and “We go dey collect am by doggy style or one corner nah… Man must survive”.
Recall that Abakaliki Street is one of the most popular places noted for night life and flirting in the entire Awka capital city and its environs, hence government’s change of its name to Club Street in 2018.