Based on the plethora of petitions and agitations which the National Union of Tenants Port Harcourt branch reportedly sent to the United Nations Habitat office in Abuja , Nigeria , a four man fact finding delegation from the UN-HABITAT Commission was sent to Port Harcourt to ascertain the true situation of things as regards the current demolition exercise of some settlements in Port Harcourt by the Ministry of Urban Development headed by Barrister Osima Ginah. The Fact Finding Mission, was led by the HABITAT Programme Manager for Nigeria, Professor Johnson Bade Falade and met with the Hon. Commissioner of Urban Development, Bar Osima Ginah on Monday 16th March, 2009 after practical tour of some of the settlements already demolished and others marked for demolition.
The Leader of the Team, Professor Johnson Bade Falade, Habitat Programme Manager of Nigeria, said they were in the Honourable commissioner's office to get facts and explanations relating to the ongoing Urban Renewal and development Control Exercise of the Ministry and the State Government. According to him, the visit was not antagonistic, but to verify claims and accusations of government's insensitivity and abuse of the rule of law in its ongoing demolition exercise, brought to the organization by the National Union of Tenants, for a balanced and purposeful report for the way forward.
Barrister Osima Ginah, the Honourable Commissioner, Ministry of Urban Development, responding thanked them for taking the bold and positive initiative to actually embark on a fact finding mission to put the record straight, instead of a malicious one-sided action. “I will like to reiterate all the same that the Urban renewal Exercise of the Ministry has its legal backing from the Physical Planning and development Control law No.6 of 2003. This law is not aimed towards victimization of any individual or group of people, but to properly regulate development and bequeath to the State a sustainable decent habitable and business friendly environment. Urbanization being a global phenomena and process of replacement, imposition and modernization for true social re-orientation and development has its own challenges no doubt.
These challenges and task before us are not only assiduous but is the goal the Rt. Hon Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi led government is contending with, in its ongoing urban renewal programme, which is geared towards correcting the heinous wrongs consciously perpetuated by individuals and government alike, in the built environment which has not only deprived the State and its people of needed social infrastructures and its prided Garden City Glory, but has effectively defaced and distorted the painstakingly outlined master planes of the Capital City, Port Harcourt and its environs.
The Ministry of Urban Development is therefore saddled with the onerous task of removing illegal, offensive and contravening structures, controlling development, recovering road setback for utility and beautification and urbanization of the city, is as to be expected engaging several complains and petitions from within and outside the State.
As a democratic and people oriented government let me reiterate that the government in carrying out this exercise, has deliberately and consciously sensitized and involved various stakeholders, including Landlords and tenants in decisions and that government has paid adequate compensation for structures it intends to acquire for public purpose in its Urban renewal Exercise. Such acquisition are made in complete agreement and support of the owners, who are even given the rare privilege to get the services of private valuers and attorneys, an indication that government does not carry out any secret deals or plans to victimise its citizens as we are in government to serve the people.
The Urban renewal Exercise in the Njemanze/ Abonnema Wharf area of Diobu is not only to transform the aesthetic beauty of the environment, but also to ensure security of people and property considering the high rate of Criminality perpetuated in those areas. The Upland part will serve its original commercial purpose, while sand filling will elevate the waterfront, and road and other social infrastructures provided in addition to low cost houses for the people. To ensure International best practice in Urbanization, my Ministry has setup a professional body in the built environment to review the existing Physical Planning and Development Control law to conform to Modern Development and social realities.
Speaking at the end of visit, Professor Johnson Bade Falade commended the State Government on its effort at transforming the State, expressed appreciation at the openness of the administration and the Hon. Commissioner's ability to provide all the necessary documents, and needed explanation to facilitate their job, promising that they will not be biased in their report. Prof Falade commended also Bar Osina for attending the World Urban Conference in Nanji in China last November as his experience has undoubtedly given him an edge in the planning and execution of the Urban Renewal Policy of the Rt. Hon. Amaechi led administration. He concluded by reminding the Commissioner of the need of attending the next World Urban Conference slated for Rio De-Jenero Brazil in April, 2010. Bar Osima at this juncture, stated that he will not only attend but make case for the Commissioners for Land, Housing, Environment and Water Resources to attend as they also form part of the Urban Renewal initiative of the Rivers State Government. Members of the Team include Professor Johnson Bade Falade ,Morenike Babalola of Federal Ministry of Works, Housing and Urban Development ( Abuja ,Victoria Ohaeri (SERAC, Lagos and Rasmus Precht, (UN-HABITAT).
West, Ibilaba N.
Press Secretary to the
Ministry of Urban Development.