Enugu govt agency, father of 4 in verbal war over property demolition
By Uzoh Ugwueze, Enugu
War of words between the Enugu Capital Territory Development Authority (ECTDA) and Mr. Anthony Njoku over recent demolition of multiple structures belonging to the father of four children has escalated.
The properties situated at Works Layout, GRA, within the State capital, were pulled down by the ECTDA, under the supervision of its chairman, Mr. Joseph Onoh, for allegedly violating the necessary provisions, but Njoku insists that the action was a vendetta and not backed up by any law.
The embattled property owner had in a trending video accused the agency of pulling down his 15-year-old property without any justifiable reason. He claimed that he is only a victim of a vendetta and that he presented fence permits, certificate of occupancy, title documents and building plan approvals to the chairman of the agency, but it fell on deaf ears.
According to Njoku, his duplex which had been sold to cover up his credit facility with Union Bank of Nigeria that went stale, was brought down even when other buildings beside his were not touched at all.
He further claimed that in 2006 when he commenced construction works on the bungalow, engineers from the state town planning authority were available, supervised the right of high tension and gave approval for the building.
He said the demolition of his buildings have left him dangerously traumatised and rendered him and his family homeless. He also disclosed that more disheartening is the fact that the demolished bungalow served as collateral and was mortgaged to the Bank of Agriculture for a loan of N45 million with interest amounting to about N78 million yet to be paid.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the ECTDA, Mr. Onoh has countered Njoku, maintaining that the demolished structures had no approval, adding that they were also erected on power transmission lines and waterway.
He said whereas the only approval for the Plot 17 was for a bungalow, a duplex, serving industrial purposes, was standing on the property.
Onoh said there was need to clear “mischievous, political and malicious information currently trending and designed to discredit the development control activities of this agency by a certain Mr. Anthony Njoku, who I do not know personally, except for the discharge of my duties.
“He has gone further claiming that the agency has caused him grievous harm, amounting to N700m and he also alleged that he actually presented this agency with building approvals before the demolition was done.
“Normally, the agency does not owe any apology when we try to sanitize the State because that is what it is meant to be, but we have decided to address the press in order to put on record the true state of things. The intention of the purveyors of the fake news is to present this government as reckless, heartless, land grabbers and lawless administration, hence it became necessary that the press should be addressed.”
He further disclosed that “the agency had on the 14th Day of October 2020, issued a notice requesting for building plan and approvals; a violation notice was also issued on the same date.
“It is also important to note that after that, there was no submission to this agency. According to the law, once the agency writes, the person has 14 days to respond, failing which we will do the needful and the person will bear the cost, that is the violator.
“Then again, on 12th day of November, 2020, a demolition notice was served and pasted on plot 17 and also other relevant plots, including the former MAN Petrol, which has an eatery by the side. The first demolition occurred on that waterway and he complied.
“It is also important to note that the Plot 17 was not registered in the name of the said character, Mr. Anthony Njoku as the property has already been sold to someone else, Okechukwu Aneke, who we were told was not in the country and who we met on the day of the exercise.”
He said the agency decided to carry out the development activity on the 24th of January, adding “Enugu State is one of the greatest violators of city masterplan, especially the national transmission line which requires at least 22.5 metres set back and people have actually resorted to using it for trading, some are erecting structures, stalls, houses but it is not about flouting the law, it is about what time the law will catch up with you, and in that aspect, we owe to apology in the discharge of our duties because we do that without sentiment; it is discharged without intent to politicize or carry out personal vendetta.”
Onoh stressed that the video being circulated on social media was full of lies to attract public sympathy, stressing that “the said building had no approval from any government agency.”
“Let’s keep away sentiments and think more about safety of lives and property. High tension electricity lines are not something to play with at all.
“Lagos State carried out development control exercises to Banana Island, Delta State, Ebonyi State and the rest of them are doing the same, there is no public outcry especially on social media. In the course of doing the right thing, we would step on toes and as the Chairman of this agency, I have never for one day, pursued any personal vendetta.
“I have kept proper records of every engagement we do and I will not tarnish the image of this agency to get involved in a cheap political goal aimed at tarnishing the good image of this administration”, Onoh said.