Residents of Umuahia, Abia State capital, may no longer have to pay through their nose for house rent in the months ahead.
This is following the acquisition of over 140 hectares of land by the state government for Federal Housing Authority Estate and Heritage City otherwise known as the Abia New Town Layout.
The proposed federal housing estate is strategically located at Isiokata and Umunkwo communities in Isiala Ngwa North Local Government Area, LGA after the popular ASEPA refuse dump site on the Umuahia-Aba Expressway before Ntigha junction.
It is about 15 minutes drive from the state capital and is intended to decongest the city centre and help solve the accommodation challenges of residents.
The proposed estate will have a business and residential zones for all categories of people, recreational centres, police posts, schools, health centres and other necessary infrastructure found in a modern housing estate, Sunday Vanguard learned.
According to the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Lands, Survey and Urban Planning, Aaron Bestman, said the acquisition spanned several other communities in Isiala Ngwa North and Umuahia South LGAs, adding that the area would form the new Umuahia as the current city needs to expand as a result of rural-urban drift.
He described the development as a watershed in the efforts of the state government to facilitate decent and affordable housing for residents.
A two-bedroom flat in Umuahia currently goes for between N25,000 and N30,000 while three-bedroom flat ranges from N35,000 to N50,000 per month depending on the available facilities.
The Permanent Secretary commended the traditional rulers, youths and women leaders of the affected communities for their patriotism and support in making the project a success.
He also noted that the confidence the communities repose in the “visionary leadership” of the Okezie Ikpeazu-led government helped in making the acquisition process seamless.
Bestman explained that both communities had already constituted their respective land committees that would put finishing touches to the acquisition process and draft the Memorandum of Understanding MoU, which would pave way for land and cash compensations and commencement of the project.
He said the ministry had done enough sensitization of the landowners on the huge gains of the project, and to clear every doubt they might have.
According to him, apart from the 140 hectares of land to be acquired from Isiokata and Umunkwo communities, the ministry has also carried out a reconnaissance survey to ascertain the size of land to be acquired from Ntigha, Amakama, Ubakala, and Nsulu autonomous communities.
On the mode of acquisition, he said:” The mode of acquisition entails returning part of the land to the donors in addition to cash compensations”.
A top management staff of the ministry also told Sunday Vanguard that the two-pronged acquisition mode which makes the donor communities part of the project would help eliminate needless friction that usually trails such projects.
The source said the process to secure the site commenced in 2002 but got stalled due to some breaches.
According to the source, the acquisition process was not consummated because of the inability of previous administrations in the state to conclude compensation of donor communities.
The source said: “Governor Okezie Ikpeazu who has the political will to acquire land for investors to develop the state has done what his predecessors could not do 20 years earlier.
“Depending on the bargaining power of the local authorities, it could go for 70:30; or 6:40 ratio. The donor communities will be part of the ownership to have a sense of belonging and avoid unnecessary friction.
“The estate will be developed according to the prototype the federal housing authority is using in other states where it has similar projects.
“The groundbreaking by the governor is expected to take place before the end of this quarter. After that full development will commence.’’
The source said other housing estates would also spring up around the area as many investors including Abians in Diaspora have indicated an interest in partnering the project.
Meanwhile, Commissioner for Lands, Survey and Urban Planning, Dr Francis Onwuchuruba, has commended the donor communities for their action and charged other communities in the state to emulate them.
The Commissioner, who made the commendation during community town hall meetings with the leadership of the communities, restated the resolve of the Ikpeazu-led government to pay full compensation for the land.
Applauding the donor communities for supporting the efforts of the government to develop, he said the government was in a hurry to actualize the project for the benefit of the people.
He advised communities against resisting the government’s acquisition of their land for developmental projects, arguing that “development must be on land and not in the air”. He also commended the Executive Secretary of Abia State Diaspora Commission, Dr. Mrs Ngozi Erondu; and South-East Zonal Board Member, Federal Housing Authority, Chinyere Anokwuru, for their heroic roles in facilitating the project.
Responding on behalf of his subjects, the traditional ruler of the Amapu-Ntigha autonomous community, Eze Jacob Akoma, thanked the government for the vision and pledged the full support of his community in realizing the project.
He, however, urged the government not to renege in its promises, especially in ensuring that donor communities are not shortchanged.
Similarly, the Traditional Prime Minister of Isiokata Community, Nze Raphael Onwunali; Bob Ohuocha of Umudara Umunkwo community and other speakers, assured the government of the support of their respective communities but stressed the need for all parties to keep their terms of the deal.
The proposed estate when delivered, will not only help decongest the over-congested city centre but also fast-track even development.
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