DEMOLITION: I'M UNDER SERIOUS THREATS BUT I WON'T BE DETER, SAYS DELTA ENVIRONMENT COMMISSIONER
The Delta State Commissioner for Environment, Chief Frank Omare on Tuesday open up over the challenges of his new task of riding the state of illegal structures and filthy.
He also alleged serious threat to his life since the state government began its renewed efforts to protect the environment and rid it of filthy and structures defacing major cities across the state.
Waxing strong, Omare said that he cannot be deterred on the job sent him by the state government adding that if he's found to be wanting in the demolition exercise, he was prepared to face prosecution by the same government that had sent him the errand.
Omare spoke at the maiden edition of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, Warri Correspondent Chapels, programme tagged; 'Searchlight on the State of the State' held at the press center in Warri, the commercial nerve center of Delta State.
Fielding questions from journalists, Omare who was flanked by chairman of the union, Comrade Michael Ikeogwu said that no amount of blackmail and threats to his life would make him compromise government position which according to him was a collective decision by the state executive council.
The exercise by Omare's led taskforce had attracted so much controversy, allegations and counter-allegations with many accusing the state government of carry out vendetta against some ethnic groups, perceive 'political enemies' and anti-people programme that had caused many loses.
Few weeks ago, human right lawyer, Oghenejabor Ikimi of the Centre for the Vulnerable and Underprivileged (CENTREP) had allegedly accused the governor of embarking on executive rascality over the demolition of 65 houses at Ifiakporo, Warri South Local Government Area of the state without a court order to that affect.
There have also being pocket of protests over the exercise of which many affected victims had called the man at the center of the exercise so many unprintable names but Omare's appearance at the Warri NUJ programme had help cleared the air and douse a lot of discordant voices.
Omare said that rather than pouring diatribe on the state government, the governor deserved an accolade for 'taking a bold step' that would not only change the face of the environment but help to instill the culture of discipline on the people in many years to come.
Speaking specifically on Ifiakporo's demolition, he said that government cannot be said to have violated any law when it went to take over the 'royal cemetery' which according to him was illegally occupied by some persons who may have fraudulently obtained some document to cover their illegal occupation of the land.
According to him, the land to which the 'illegal occupants' built before the demolition is a gazetted government land acquired under the mid-west state regime which according to him is a know fact among Deltans.
He said that those who built on the land are aware the land belongs to the government but choose to build ostensibly because they were allegedly deceived by 'land speculators' and 'fraudulent town planners' that the government would never come to reclaim its land.
'I am telling you today as an agent of the government that that land belongs to the government of Delta State and it was acquired since the Mid-West state. As a government we have the gazette to that effect.
'If anyone is challenging that authority, let the person give us his/her Certificate of Occupancy (Cof O). if that person is challenging the government authority that that land was not acquired and that it is not a royal cemetery, he/she should bring his claims to Ministry of Land and Survey and he would be paid adequately.
'Let's remove sentiments out of these issues. I am not doing this on my own volition. I was sent by the State Executive Council and I have to implement the message and if I have carry out this message wrongly, and demolished one house wrongly I should be prosecuted as an individual.
'But I know that before any house was demolished in Ifiakporo, notices were served to all the people and a week before that day all the vehicles I am using went round announcing about the coming demolition exercise.
'We spoke to them with all kind of languages so nobody can come out now to say we didn't let them know of the exercise. We have all these evidence.
'When our team arrived that day, we gave the people over one hour to evacuate their properties. So there was sufficient notice to everyone. These people had built on nothing because it is a government land.
'We must learn to do thing right. I don't regret any action I take on behalf of the government. I don't know anybody in Ifiakporo or elsewhere we have visited. What we are doing is purely government business.
'We should appreciate the bold step the government has taken. We should appreciate the risk that some people are taking to make the state a better place for us all. I receive threats over the job I'm doing for the government but I'm not bothered. I am not doing this on my own capacity, it is a government assignment and I must do it effectively…..
Omare said that he would resign his position if he is found to be incompetent in his duty adding that what he was doing was a passionate job to make Delta state a better place.
'If I tell you the kind of pressure and threat I receive over this job a day you would be surprise. Today people don't have fear of erosion in Warri/Sapele because we have opened all the canals/waterways.
'I know that some people just want to score some political points about what we are doing but I wouldn't be scared and I cannot be scared. I am doing what is right.
He however dismissed the claims that the state government was carry out anti-people policy since the exercise have affected hundreds of residents of Warri and its environs saying 'government ideology are always minority ideology'.
According to him, there are no scared cows in the exercise as both the high and low are affected in the exercise adding that the fence of the governor's building was also demolished by the taskforce as such no one should think he is above the law.
Omare warned those who had encroached on government forest reserve in the state to desist from the act immediately adding that in few weeks time the taskforce would clampdown in full force on violators.
Speaking further, Omare said that there would be no compensation for any illegal structure demolished in the state saying that the state government would never encourage illegality.
'We cannot continue to allow people to block government road because they don't have shops or because they are poor people. We should discourage such culture in its entirety. We have provided markets, lets the people go to the market places to trade.
'We have a market in Sapele that has been turned into a dump site, half of the market is a dump site now and these are same people complaining that they don't have market to trade when they have turned the one built for them by government into a dump site.
Speaking on the allegations that some officials of the taskforce were taking bribe and were embarking on selective justices, Omare stated that those who alleged should prove and report the person involved in the act to the authorities.
He said that the state government was embarking on a programme that would turn waste to wealth in the state saying a waste turning plant is already being installed in Igbogidi, to field the Warri axis and Ibusa to field the Asaba axis of the state.
He said that the state government was in the verge of engaging about 1,600 environmental marshals across the state to ensure that each house comply with the directives to ensure a clean and healthy environment.
Written By Joe Ogbodu,
Email: [email protected]