Demolition: NRC expresses doubt over commencement of operations on Eastern route

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nigeria_train_2013_04_24Plans to commence rail operations on the Eastern route by January 2014 may be suspended unless the running shade (workshop for servicing of trains) near Umuahia-Ibeku rail station is rebuilt.

Mr Felix Njoku, District Manager, Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) Eastern Zone, said on Tuesday when he led officials of the corporation to inspect NRC facilities in Umuahia.

The running shade is among several structures marked for demolition by the Abia Government after it relocated the Umuahia Main Market to a new location at Ubani-Ibeku area

Njoku, who described the running shade as `very important,’ said that without the facility rail operations could not commence.

“Without the running shade, it will be difficult for trains to operate because that is the place where technicians ascertain the condition of a train for it to continue its movement to the next station.

“What we have here (running shade) might be dilapidated but government had already awarded contact for its renovation before the move to pull it down by Abia State Government,’’ he said.

Njoku expressed concern at the extent of demolition of property on NRC land.

He said that property so far demolished on the land were legally constructed with due authorisation from NRC and the Abia G government.

“The 1995 Act and 1978 Land Use Act conferred the property where these properties are built on us and the people that owed these properties are our tenants who pay rent and lease to the NRC.

“Abia Government claimed they do not want commercial activities where they intend to build Shoprite; that is why they are demolishing these properties.

“When we heard of the planned demolition, we wrote Abia Government and told them that our interest is here and most of the buildings marked for demolition were not illegal property but nobody replied our letter up till date,’’ he said.

Njoku said his visit was to assess the situation and report to the authorities of Federal Ministry of Transport in Abuja.

He said that there was need for the Abia Government to pay compensation to traders and property owners whose structures were demolished.

“We are still going to talk to Abia Government on the need to pay compensation to property owners and traders affected by this action because they are not illegal occupants.

“The NRC is not opposed to any form of development by any state government.

“We have recorded this type of demolition in Rivers, Niger, Kano, Kaduna and Lagos states but due process was taken to handle the situation; what we are seeing in Abia is different,’’ he said.

He advised traders and property owners not to take laws into their hands and urged them to be calm till NRC addressed the matter.

Mrs Adaure Ibeh, one the traders affected by the demolition, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)  that government officials directed them to quit their shops within 24 hours before the demolition.

Reacting to claims that compensation were not paid to owners of property marked for demolition, Mr Charles Ajunwa, Chief Press Secretary to the Abia Governor, said that government had good intention in its urban renewal policy.

He said though nobody had been paid compensation, the issue was not over till government concluded consultations on the matter. (NAN)