Landlords in suburb of Delta State capital, Asaba are presently living in fear as the State government threatened to demolish over 8,700 houses, if the homeowners fail to regularize their property.
The Guardian learnt that the State’s Ministry of Land and Surveys recently set up a task force that marked the affected buildings and issued notice to property owners.
The property owners were given three months moratorium to perfect the documents such as land allocation, plan approval and Certificate of Occupancy, while those that pays before the order expires are expected to get 30 per cent discount.
The affected houses, include private schools, churches, estates and cooperative buildings situated at Ogbeowele Quarters New Layout at Okpanam in Oshimili North Local Council of the State.
Owned mostly by civil servants who are indigenes of the state, the homeowners amongst, who are lawyers, traders, retirees as well as journalists, will have to cough out between the sum of N1, 050, 000 to N2.8 million to avoid demolition.
If government made good on its threat, over 25,000 persons will be rendered homeless including the original owners of the land – Okonkwo Ezechie family.
Against the backdrop of the threat of demolition, which is currently, hanging on the affected landlords, so many of them who cannot afford the exorbitant fees are presently in distress even as some retirees have resigned to fate.
Although, several protests have been staged by the landlords, the chairman of the Demolition Committee, Chief Frank Omare, who deployed officials that served the demand notice and marked the houses for demolition, vowed that the houses would go down at the expiration of the ultimatum issued.
The notice was signed by the Director of Development, with the authorisation of the Governor and Commissioner for Lands and Survey, Urban and Regional Development, Chief Dan Okenyi.
Omare said the land in question, now code-named ‘Core Area II, belongs to the state government since the state, but the original owners -the Okonkwo /Ezechie families disagreed, “the land was never acquired by the state at any time in history.”
Omare, who urged the landlords to take advantage of the 15 per cent discount which range between N1.5, and N3 millions, levied on each of the landlords, said the demolition exercise would begin with the falling of fences.
But the family has alleged that the state government suddenly developed interest in the land owing to the cash crunch currently bedeviling the state.
Speaking on the development, the state Commissioner for Information, Mr. Patrick Ukah insisted that the government acquired the land some years back but some land grabbers sold the land to the public.
Ukah, an Okpanam indigene, said the government could easily have gone ahead to regain possession of the land but that the occupiers were merely directed to get the Certificate of Occupancy so as to regularize their ownership.
Ukah dismissed allegation of an impending demolition squad, emphasizing that the taskforce Chairman never said that he was moving in with bulldozers.