Ben Dunno, Warri
The Warri-Uvwie and Environs Special Area Development Agency (WUEDA) says it is kick starting its mandate to develop the twin cities with an environmental sanitation exercise which commences as from Monday (December 16) next week.
Director General of the Agency, Ovuozourie Macaulay, who made this disclosure in a chat with reporters in Warri, said the clean-up exercise, which it intends to make part of its routine, became necessary considering the filthy state of the city environs.
He explained that besides the routine clean-up exercise of the cities, the Agency would also embark on demolish shanties, illegal structures and caravans erected mostly along the major roads and unapproved areas.
Macaulay, a former Secretary to the Delta State Government under the administration of Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, stated that the essence of the exercise was to ensure that Warri and its environs remain beautiful and habitable cities in order to attract investors.
According to him, “I’m not here to play politics. My task is very clear and simple. I’m not here to play ethnic politics but to restore cleanliness and development to Warri, Uvwie and its environs. We’ll step on toes in cause of doing our task.
“The cleanliness will be systematic and sustainable”, he asserted.
He particularly warned owners of caravans and illegal structures along major streets of Warri, Uvwie and environs to immediately relocate, saying the Agency would stop at nothing to ensure that such structures are pulled down by its task force.
Macaulay also warned roadside traders around major markets in Warri, Uvwie and their environs to relocate ahead of next Monday’s operation, adding that the state government would not compensate any trader whose property is destroyed during the clean-up exercise.
“Why is this Agency important? Those who witnessed the oil boom of the early seventies through the eighties will agree that the Warri metropolis was the hub of industrialisation and the perfect definition of what a fast developing city should be,” he stated.
“Regrettably, Warri and its environs have become a ‘shadow of itself’ on account of a number of interrelated factors, paramount, of course, was the somewhat intractable Warri crisis which lasted between March 1997 to September 2004.
“This crisis had militancy in its wake, resulting in the relocation of companies such as the Shell Petroleum Development Company and a host of others.
“The relocation of International Oil Companies (IOCs) as well as local production companies and a retinue of viable industries to other states in Nigeria, left the economic life of Warri, Uvwie and environs starring down the barrel of insolvency and every other societal arrangements, ranging from the socials to security, followed suit/
“In the bid to reconcile the differences behind the crisis at that time, the State Government under Chief James Onanefe Ibori, in November 2003, established the Directorate for Inter Ethnic and Conflict Resolution, which was able to douse the lingering embers of that crisis.
“What then should be the next policy direction if not the rehabilitation and development of the area, which has not witnessed the desired pace of development since the end of the Warri crisis?
“Today, fifteen Years (15) down the line, the State Governor, Senator (Dr) Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, in his wisdom, established the Warri, Uvwie and Environs Special Area Development Agency (WUEDA), to ensure an all encompassing development thrust for the area,” Macaulay stated.
He called on residents of the twin cities to support the Agency’s quest to clean and develop the area.
WUEDA’s Director General further stated, “Consequently, we aim to ensure that our catchment areas remain livable cities with good road network and recreation opportunities.
“Even much more significant is our forecast, that success in this sector will not only save thousands of jobs but will also create several others as well as further opportunities for the informal business sector to grow.
“However, we have identified the main challenges militating against urban renewal in Warri Uvwie and Environs to include illegal erection of structures, inappropriate waste disposal, traffic jams as a result of the deplorable state of the roads.
“We have also identified flooding as a result of blocked drains occasioned by building of illegal and unapproved houses on water channels and natural waterways; such buildings must give way in order to actualise the Warri of our dream.
“We responded to some questions during our swearing-in reception; my response is still causing ripples and, of course, that is the way it is going to go. We cannot put a new edifice on top of a decaying one. If we wish to develop Warri, we need to clean it first and, in the cause of doing that, there will be some displacement and sacrifices.
“For instance, a modern market has been built, but some people chose not to use the market, but to trade on the road side. Of course, we must tell them no because government policy is against trading along the streets and unapproved road side.
“You have a market. Take a shop and sell your wares there. When I say we are going to step on toes, it does not mean we are going to deprive people of what is their rights. Certainly, we will operate within the ambit of the law.
“Why should Warri be a city of caravans? That, we must also address. People just get lands and the next thing is to erect caravans and start business. It is not perfect for the aesthetics, sanitation and beauty of any city.
“Residents of Warri, Uvwie and Environs should be ready for purposeful change, and it cannot come by without making some form of sacrifice. Demolition of caravans in Warri is not new.
“Most times, it takes barely two to three weeks for them to be re-erected. This time, it will be a different ball game entirely as we will constitute a task-force to monitor compliance.”