Joe Effiong, Uyo
The Akwa Ibom State Government has concluded plans to demolish illegal buildings including churches built close to the collapsed Reigners Bible Church along Uyo Village Road, Uyo.
Reigners Bible Church collapsed, on December 10, 2016, killing more than 30 people and injuring hundreds of others including commissioners in Akwa Ibom State Government who had accompanied Governor Udom Emmanuel to the bishopric consecration of the church founder, Pastor Akan Weeks.
The state commissioner for lands and town planning, Mr. Chris Ekpo told Daily Sun, on Monday, that some of the churches had since been put on a red alert, even as they had been instructed to provide insurance cover for 500 of their members in case of any such mishap.
“They say they have approval. But I will like to see such approval. That church (name withheld) structure we had already given them demolition notice.
“When they came begging, what I told them was given three to four years, that structure will come down on its own because the erosion behind the church is very active.
“By the time we went on inspection, even the first fence they erected had gone down.
“So, what I insisted they should do is to pose an insurance of 500 worshippers so that if anything happens, the families would have something to fall back on. So they have done that and I have made sure that it is active on a yearly basis.
“There are a lot of illegal structures in Uyo. In this ministry we have already set a demolition squad.
“We have already identified structures we need to bring down so that others will also know that before they erect a structure they must get approval.
“That is why you have development control agencies like Uyo Capital City Development Authority and the area planning authorities.
“Master plans are supposed to be guides to development control which people are supposed to adhere to.
“But people, instead of submitting their drawings to the appropriate quarters, they take the laws into their hands and feel that they can erect structures they way they like. That is why you have all these problems.”
Ekpo attributed the increasing flooding in Uyo to illegal structures which were not a problem when the Uyo master plan was conceived.
“By right, the cost of the demolition is supposed to be borne by the illegal developer. How to enforce that is going to be a problem.
“So, we will not wait for that. As soon as we the funds we are expecting, we are going into demolition.
“So, if you have a friend that has illegal structure and has been fortunate enough to see the description on the building, tell him to make alternative plans; to start looking for another accommodation.”
He said as early as November 2000, there was a relocation order for all the inhabitant of Uyo village road in which the ill-fated Reigners Bible church was situated because of the poor nature the of the soil and topography of the areas.
He, however, lamented that the villagers were still selling plots along the area to unsuspecting members of the public including even the Nigerian Society of Engineers which only realised their mistakes when they went to get approval to start constructing their state secretariat.
The commissioner disclosed that the state government has earmarked for development, 1,000 units of different typology of houses in five local government areas of Uyo, Eket, Ikot Abasi, Onna and Uruan, where are suspected as areas people are moving into from the city.
He also expressed concerns over the proliferation of markets in Uyo, especially around the Ibom connection and other similar city centres; but promised that two new public-private-partners markets would be developed in Uyo to take care of the seemingly stranded traders in the streets.