By Akanimo Sampson
Despite the housing crisis in Imo State, Governor Hope Uzodinma is alleged to be marking houses of his political foes for demolition. Media Adviser to Senator Rochas Okorocha, Sam Onwuemeodo, has already cried out over an alleged plot to demolish his private residence in Owerri, the state capital.
“I, Sam Onwuemeodo, wish to inform the general public that the Governor of Imo State, Hope Uzodinma, and his government, have marked the house where I have been living with my family, for demolition’’, the Okorocha aide said in a statement.
Disturbingly, Imo is among the states that have failed to make any meaningful impact in the housing industry. The others are Abia, Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Benue, Borno, Cross River, Ebonyi, Ekiti, Enugu, Gombe, Kebbi, Ondo, Osun, Plateau, Rivers, Sokoto, and Zamfara.
Association of Housing Corporation of Nigeria (AHCN) in its recent assessment on the state of housing in the country reported that many states have not built any house in the past two to four years, while few others only increased their stocks through private sector intervention.
Beyond Lagos and states like Anambra, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Nasarawa, Niger, Ogun, Oyo, Taraba, and Yobe, whose housing projects are still in embryonic stages, others have paid lip service to shelter.
The Guardian identified an amalgam of factors ranging from undue political interference like what is currently playing out in Imo, misplaced priorities, poor implementation and non-execution of public housing programmes as reasons for this dismal performance in housing delivery.
The Uzodinma administration reportedly initiated a programme of providing 5,000 housing units for workers and non-government workers. In the past, the state had 19 estates under the control of its Housing Corporation, located in various villages of Oforolla (Owerri West Local Government Area), Obinze (Owerri West), Avu (Owerri West), Ihiagwa (Owerri West), Aladinma (Owerri municipal Local Government Area), Trans -Egbu (Owerri North Local Government Area), and Unuguma (Owerri West). Each of the estates has 120 houses, bringing it to a total of 2,400.
General Manager and Chief Executive Officer of Imo State Housing Corporation, Chinedu Mbakwe Obi, said there is arrangement to add 3,000 houses to the stock. He claimed that arrangement had been made with the Federal Mortgage Bank with the consent of the civil service as contributors to the National Housing Scheme.
Mbakwe Obi said 1,000 housing units will be provided under the Site and Services low cost Housing for the Civil Servants in the state, in the first quarter. He, however, regretted the large housing deficit in the state.
In spite of these efforts, former Director of Federal Mortgage Bank, Dr Godwin Chinedu Duru, is still urging Governor Uzodinma, to do all he can to correct the housing deficits in the state before the state runs into housing crisis.
Duru who is an Imo indigene, from Amucha in Njaba Local Government Area, lamented that the population of the state is increasing rapidly and that something urgent has to be done in the area of providing housing units to the people to match the increasing population, pointing out that he brought 500 housing units to Naze, Owerri when he was with FMBN because he saw the need to develop the city.
“I want the governor to take housing in the state seriously because Owerri is getting over populated. If we had not had World Bank Housing Estate, I wonder what Owerri would have been. Housing is a special area that needs experienced people to manage, because there are other funds outside the state that used to fund it. I believe he should give serious attention to housing in Owerri because the city is entering into housing crisis due to the fact that hotels are taking and driving people out of their homes’’, he said.
In the mean time, Onwuemeodo says his house has already been marked for demolition by the Owerri Capital Development Agency (OCDA), noting that he was yet to be told reasons by the agency why it wants to bring down the house he has been living in for over eight years.
“As I write, nobody has told me the reason for marking my house for demolition, whether the house was illegally acquired, or whether the house distorted the Owerri Master Plan, or whether I have become Sam Onwuemeodo nee Okorocha, or whether I have become another son-in-law of Rochas Okorocha. I have not known or been told the reason for my house to be marked for demolition.
“On Friday, March 19, 2021, someone called and told me to be very careful, that the government has decided to demolish my house; that by Tuesday, March 23, 2021, my house would be marked for demolition. And to avoid making it look personal, they would also mark other houses around my own.
“I didn’t take the information seriously because I could not fathom any reason the government would want to demolish my house, except, perhaps, my serving in the government of Okorocha as his Chief Press Secretary and now, as his Media Adviser.
“Following this information, on Tuesday, March 23, 2021, I decided not to leave the house early. By 11.22am, two hummer buses with tinted glasses came and parked in front of my gate. I decided only to watch them. The two buses were filled with young men I wouldn’t like to describe as thugs and about six hefty men in Mobile Police Uniform, fully armed.”