Cries, pains as Wike pulls down illegal structures

Some residents of Rivers state are still counting their loses as the state government pulled down some illegal structures recently in a move the government said was aimed at smoking criminals out of their hidings. GODWIN EGBA reports.

Rivers state governor, Barrister Nyesom Wike’s relentless commitment to transforming the geographical land space of the state through infrastructural development such as roads and bridges among others exites the public. To that extent, he has also ordered total destruction of criminal hideouts in shanties and illegal structures.
Precisely two weeks ago, residents of Rivers state received the greatest shock of their lives from Governor Wike whom is fondly called Mr Project. His laudable, excellent performance in infrastructural development across the state earned him that name. Unarguably, projects such as roads and bridges among others speak volume from his first to present second tenure in office.

However, the governor who has vowed not to allow criminal elements to take the state as their comfort zone ordered the demolition of all criminal hideouts like shanties, illegal and make shift structures in some parts of the state. He specifically penciled down Ahoada, Elele, Eleme and Onne areas at the East-West road the axis.
The governor gave the order in a state broadcast two weeks ago and disclosed that the state government had identified some hideouts, safe houses and secret places that provided both cover and comfort for hoodlums to plan, execute and return to after operations.
However, some critics of the order who spoke with Blueprint in Port Harcourt, the state capital said that not all occupants of shanties and makeshift structures along Eleme–Onne road are criminals because genium business operators could be identified there such as road side mechanics, furniture makers, restaurant operators and other artisans.

In Eleme as witnessed by the Blueprints correspondent, two weeks after the governor’s order, the state government rolled out bull dozers and began demolition from the Eleme junction down to a popular Ebubu Trailer Park housing diverse business operators of trucks, mechanics, food vendours, illicit drugs dealers, prostitutes and criminals occupying shanties.
The governor said criminals were already coming to terms with the reality that the state was too hot for them to invade at will and detonate their foolish attacks on targeted security posts and personal.

Wike speaks

Wike, who made this assertion disclosed that the state government identified the hideouts, safe houses and secret places that provided both cover and comfort for the hoodlum.
“This was the reason we ordered the destruction of all the shanties and makeshift to Ahoada expanse of the East-West Road to deny the criminals to undermine our security from these hideouts.
“We have equality decided to destroy all the shanties, illegal shops and mechanic sheds along the Eleme to Onne street of the East-West Road having discovered all these places also as hideouts and operational bases for criminals and criminal activities in the state.

Wike said he was not unmindful of the economic effect those measures would have or may have had on residents carrying out businesses in the affected areas.
He, however, stressed that government was merely discharging its constitutional responsibility to advance the collective security of all with no ethnic targets in mind or attachment to political sentiment.
“We would all continue to take the war against criminality and insecurity to the dens of the criminals and we would neither yield nor lower the tempo of our assault until they are comprehensively neutralised.
Consequently, the state government just recently rolled out its bulldozers by demolishing illegal structures and shanties at Eleme-Ebubu Trailer Park housing over 10,000 occupants.

Thereafter, some hoodlums seized the opportunity to loot shops of electronics, clothing, bags of rice, beans, garri and foot wears, among others.
The demolition was ordered by the state governor, Barrister Nyesom Wike a fortnight ago who instructed the new council chairman of Eleme local government, Chief Obarilomate Ollor, to destroy all shanties and illegal structures along the Eleme-Onne Road with a view to flushing out criminals.
Blueprint correspondent who was on ground to witness the demolition exercise that started that Wednesday saw that it was a free day for some criminals living in the park to loot goods as shop owners struggled to move their goods to a safe locations even under the watch of some security personnel detailed to protect the bulldozer operators and government supervisors.

The park was created by the defunct National Fertiliser Company of Nigeria (NAFCON) now called NOTORE Nigeria Limited for Trucks that lift the company’s products but was turned into residential complex for criminals, commercial sex hawkers otherwise called prostitutes and many genuine traders, food vendors and restaurant operators.
Following series of security reports and complaints by members of the public over the activities of criminal elements within the park and its environs, Governor Wike and the Eleme Council, chairman, Ollomate, took decisive action to flush out criminals in the area.
Some innocent victims of the demolition who spoke with our correspondent lamented that over 10,000 people occupied the place, but now are thrown out of their businesses without an alternative arrangement by the state or local government.
“This trailer park was identified as a den of criminals such as armed robbers who brazenly rob people at night; kidnappers and cultists live here but security agencies could not flush them out. Eleme has a Police Area Command Supervising about five divisions, yet criminals held sway not until this demolition was enforced by the state and local government,” our sources said.

Illegal structures and shanties at the Eleme new town axis were also not left out of the wide range demolition.
The Eleme council chairman Ollormate said the demolished park would be turned into a more profitable business complex such as ultra modern market with lock-up shops, motor or pleasure park that would serve the state, Akwa-Ibom, Cross Rivers, Abia, Anambra and Enugu states, among others.

However, another trader who spoke to Blueprint reacted saying, “Governor Wike has good intention to flush out criminals from the state, but why throwing out bad water with a child? Now where do we traders and other business operators that used to contribute revenue to the government go? Has his action not increased more criminals in Eleme and the state as a whole? Million questions to governor Wike.