Staff of the federal ministry of works in Asaba, Delta state on Thursday took to their heels on sighting landlords and property owners along the second Niger Bridge who protested to the federal secretariat situated at the state capital.
The property owners who carried placards with varied inscriptions said the minister of works, Babatunde Fashola, assured them of compensation at the commencement of the second Niger Bridge over five years ago.
The placard carrying protesters who marched through Okpanam road to the federal secretariat wrote various inscriptions on their placards such as “Fashola, tell Buhari the truth, compensation is our right; Fashola, please, stop the lies our eyes are opened; Is five years not enough? We will not allow the diversion if you don’t pay us,” and many others.
Bamidele Imona, who spoke on behalf of the property owners, told journalists that with the assurance of compensation from Fashola’s ministry over five years ago, they were made to abandon their properties while some have been destroyed.
But available developments indicate that Fashola had reportedly pulled wool over their eyes and they seemed to have been deceived by the agents of the federal government. The conclusion arose from the fact that Fashola has allegedly refused to agree that his ministry is in possession of the compensation funds.
Emerging facts revealed that Fashola and the consultant in charge of the bridge are trading words over who is in possession of the compensation funds for the aggrieved, frustrated and disappointed property owners.
Bamidele, during a protest to the federal secretariat in Asaba, told reporters that the federal government authority came with consultants, collected their details, took their bank accounts “and told us that they have compulsorily acquired our properties. And we should not go there again, but for the past five years, nothing has been done, nothing has been said.”
He said when they learnt of the return of Abacha loot from the United States, it was gathered that the money would be used for the completion of the bridge and payment of compensation, but ‘up till now we have not heard anything. This is disturbing.”
He said rather than complete the project and pay compensation to the property owners, Fashola’s ministry is planning to commission an uncompleted road, divert it from the planned route and abort compensation payment.
Another property owner, Mrs. Josephine Crossday, also said their land and other properties have been compulsorily taken by the federal authorities, they have filled forms, submitted all necessary documents but rather than being compensated, money meant for the compensation is being diverted.
Engr. Uche Onuorah said the area on the Asaba axis covered Okwe, Oko, Ibusa and Okpanam and on the Anambra axis, it covers Obosi, Umuoji, Mkpor, Ogidi, Umuyan and Ogbunike. He added that the protesters were representatives of the over 2000 property owners from Anambra and Delta states.
Nkemchor Kashy, another protester, also said the contractors have constructed almost 2km of the road into the bust towards Okwe axis, but the road leads to nowhere as it is ending abruptly. He told reporters at the federal secretariat that none of the over 2000 property owners has been paid even as many have died.
She added: “Many have died. Some have gone back to the village. I want my own right. My money should be paid to me with the present economic value, not the past value. If you give me one million naira I will not accept it. I need the present economic value. Everything has increased.”
Another property owner said; “My husband died in 2014. He used his benefit to build the house there. Now I cannot go forth, I cannot come back. I’m suffering since 2014. No money to feed my children.
“No money to pay school fees for my children. They have been deceiving us that they have released money to pay us. They have been posting us here and there. We are tired. Enough is enough. I’m homeless, no house, no food.”
On reaching the federal secretariat where the protesters were expected to be addressed by authorities of the federal ministry of works, reports claimed that staff of the ministry took to their heels and abandoned their offices.