Several families and business owners have been trapped as officials of Abia State government yesterday sealed many buildings in Aba, the state commercial hub.
The exercise started on Thursday last week, in Aba metropolis, as several buildings were sealed on Jubilee Road and Okwunauka Street. Some of those sealed on Thursday have been unsealed after money allegedly exchanged hands.
From the notice pasted on the affected houses, the sealing is being carried out by the state Ministry of Physical, Urban Planning and Infrastructural Development backed up by heavily armed mobile policemen.
The exercise started as early as 7a.m. when most parents and their children were yet to take breakfast and were yet to go out for the day’s activities.
Some agile young men, who are probably apprentices to some of the businessmen trapped inside the affected buildings, were jumping out from the gates when some of the policemen officers moved away from the affected buildings.
An inscription on the notice reads: “This property in contravention of Sections 2 and 8 of the Abia State of Nigeria Urban and Regional Planning Board and Planning Authorities Law 2005 and Law Nos. 4 of 2015 as amended is hereby sealed.
“Any person(s) including owner/occupier, neighbour(s) or passer(s)-by who unseals or attempts to unseal this building is in contravention of Section 8 of ABS-URPB&PA Laws Nos. 4 of 2015 as amended and liable to imprisonment or fine or both. Be warned! Keep off.”
Some of the residents decried the constant harassment of residents by the officials of government who they accused of acting without conscience and sympathy.
“How can someone who is reasonable seal a house while parents and children are still inside. I learnt they said the affected buildings had shops erected on their sanitary lanes.
“Must they use illegality to fight illegality? The same government and town planning authorities approved the building of those shops beside the buildings. The tenants they locked up inside don’t even do their business there and know nothing about those shops.
“My friend who is a banker was locked up in similar situation on Thursday last week. He managed to find space to move out. Later they had to pay N200,000, according to my friend, before it was unsealed. Today they have come again.
“You can ask them why they unsealed the buildings they sealed Thursday last week. All the buildings paid money ranging from N100,000 to N200,000,” a resident, Mr. Chukwuma Ekwueme, alleged.
Another resident, Paul Udenta, said: “Whenever government needs money badly, they will start intimidating people. If there are shops built on the sanitary lane why not demolish them? Why must they come up every time to collect money? Because of one shop, you locked up entire family in a four-storey building; is that not wickedness? They only need their N100,000 or N200,000 bribe and that is why you are seeing all these dramas.
“That shop pays for sanitation, security and other levies, but when they need money it becomes illegal. These residents they locked up inside, are they the landlords? Is this not imprisonment?
“There was no initial notice to remind people anything before they came to enforce this embarrassing exercise. Yes, almost all buildings here have one shop along the sanitary lane, but sealing up homes while people are still asleep is cruel.”
When contacted on the number on the notice, an official of the ministry said the sealing was for lack of regularisation of sanitary lane of all the sealed buildings.
The official, who craved anonymity, added that the people ought to register their sanitary lane with the Town Planning Authority.
The official, however, said that remind notice was sent to the buildings of which after 28 days resulted to an enforcement notice which after seven days will be followed by enforcement.
When asked for the way forward, the official said that those affected should go to the Aba South Town Planning Authority to know what to do. (New Telegraph)