Facts Of The Matter On ‘OchoUdo City: Elechi, Umahi Feud Gets Dirtier’

A section of OchoUdo City

A section of OchoUdo City

IN the obviously sponsored piece titled: “OchoUdo City/Ebonyi: Elechi, Umahi Feud Gets Dirtier”, published in The Guardian on Sunday edition of September 13,2015, the writer, ‘Ikenna Onyekwelu’, who my findings reveal is not his real name, made the following wild claims/allegations against

His Excellency, David Nweze Umahi and his government:
That the state government plans to apply self-help in its desire to demolish the property of the immediate past governor of the state, Chief Martin Nwacho Elechi, at the OchoUdo City; that work on the residential building belonging to the former governor was halted on July 2, 2015 by the Abakaliki Capital Territory Development Board (ACTDB) via a “stop work” order; that the Secretary to the State Government, Prof. Bernard Odoh, gave the ACTDB the go ahead and marked “stop work “on the ex-governor’s building in compliance with an instruction by Governor Umahi;

That the governor drove to the site a few hours later (after “stop work” was marked on the structure) apparently to see things for himself; that the Umahi government plans to change the name of the city to New City Layout, as contained in a letter by the incumbent government to Chief Elechi; that residents of Abakaliki fear that the change of the name of the city was part of government’s efforts to ensure the defacing of the original Master Plan of the city; that the Attorney General of the state was directed by the state executive council to do a damage control to douse public outrage over the bitter acrimony between Governor Umahi and Chief Elechi over their differences during the April governorship election in the state; 

That there have never been any threat(s)or demonstration by youths of the host communities (Agbaja Unuhu, Inyimagu and Igbeagu); that an official of the Lands and Housing Ministry, including Mr. Nwene Elem, find it ‘not only preposterous but also utterly ridiculous to educate Elechi about conforming to specifications on the engineering and structural designs of Ochudo City’ and that; word is making the rounds in Abakaliki that the government of Umahi plans to instigate street urchins to pull down Elechi’s building.
Allegations one to four are related and therefore need to be clarified collectively so that the likes of ‘Onywkwelu’ can have a proper insight and stop misinforming Ebonyians and other Nigerians whose desire is to see our dear state returned to the path of growth.

Besides the public structures, including the Central Bank and State Security Service offices in place at Ochudo City, no private developer, except Chief Elechi, has started development. 
Since ‘Onyekwelu’ knows so much about the OchoUdo City project, he cannot claim ignorance that youths of the communities whose lands were taken over by the last administration without compensation are getting restive.

Some weeks after assuming office, Governor Umahi embarked on inspection of government projects in the Abakaliki capital territory during which he made several pronouncements. I was part of the governor’s entourage, and at no time did he instruct that any facility belonging to Chief Elechi in any part of the state, including OchoUdo City, be demolished.

‘Onyekwelu’ needs to understand that there is a difference between an order to demolish and a “stop work” instruction. An order to demolish is given when, after thorough investigations, an allottee is found to have breached the Master Plan of where his property is situated. But an order to stop work is given when a developer is noticed to have contravened conditions contained in the development/Master plan. This does not in anyway or manner suggest that such structure is marked for demolition as The Guardian’s writer claimed in his piece.

The ACTBD whose duty it is to ensure that allottees of plots in the state’s capital territory complied with the codes for development sensed that the ex-governor had breached the codes and therefore went on to ensure that the conditions were complied with. One of such rules or conditions set for developers is that underground power supply system be adopted in order to give the city a modern look.

The Commissioner for Lands and Housing, Sunday Inyima, recently corroborated the above when he said:  “Stop work” could be inscribed on any property whenever the Capital City Development Authority notices that a developer failed to comply with the regulations guiding the erection of structures within a premises.

“The ACTDB observed that the construction of the (Elechi’s) property was not in compliance with the regulations guiding that particular layout and that is the issue with that particular building. The present government is neither planning to revoke the allocation to the former governor nor to demolish his building. 

“The builder or the engineer handling the project should deem it very necessary to comply with the regulations guiding the layout. People also need to know that “Stop work” was inscribed on the building following threats of vandalism by the youth of the area over non-payment of compensation on their land.”
But ‘Onyekwelu’, who manufactured the people in Abakaliki who informed him that it was strange to educate the former governor about conforming with the development plan of the city, funnily credited Elechi’s lawyer, Chief Mudi Erhenede, with saying that the electric poles mounted near the ex-governor’s property were done by a Federal Government agency.
The author quoted Erhenede, who pretended that his client has no facility in New City Layout but in OchoUdo City, as saying: “As you know, electricity is in the Exclusive Legislative List of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria as amended. Our client merely got the staff of the relevant electricity distribution company to get his property connected to the national grid by stepping down supply to a transformer.”
Allegation five sounds highly bemusing. What is wrong if a government, in its wisdom opts to change the name of a facility or place built with public money? Unfortunately, the author does not even know that there is no law backing the name, ‘OchoUdo City’. Even if there was, the government has every legitimate power to seek a change. The writer and every Ebonyian know who goes by the name OchoUdo and why the city was named Ochudo.

For ‘Onyekwulu’ and others who make a fuss over the issue, they need to read Hon. Augustine Nwankwagu, a former Speaker of the state House of Assembly, who currently serves as the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice.

“I was in the House of Assembly and there was never a time we passed a law naming that place OchoUdo City. The name may have come from the fact that the man, (Chief Elechi), who was at the helm of affairs is called OchoUdo. As public servants, most of us are given to flattery. Some people may want to flatter a leader by saying, ‘Why not call this place OchoUdo City?’ And then, the man cues into it. Who will refuse such offer? He should have gone ahead to take proper steps to give it a legal backing.”
‘Onyekwelu’ also described as “purported”, a daylight demonstration by youths of Agbaja Unuhu, Inyimagu and Igbeagu communities on June 23 over non-payment of compensation to them by the Elechi administration for acquiring their land. On their arrival at the Government House in Abakaliki, they demanded that further work on the City be halted until compensation was paid.

And a day after, the youth of Ndieze Unuhu Inyimagu sent a letter titled: “Unlawful Conversion of Our Land for Private Use” to the governor. In the letter signed by Iteshi O. Iteshi of I.O. Nkwegu and Associates, they were taken aback at the discovery that while the present government is still talking about how to resettle them, some highly placed individuals are using their ill-gotten wealth to (acquire) private homes on the lands. The youth warned that they were “very ready to go in and take over their land, if it was no longer needed for overriding public interest.”
In spite of the existence of this letter, ‘Onyekwelu’ claimed that as at the time he was putting his piece together, the youth and elders of the communities were still spoiling for a war against the government of Umahi over an alleged plan to construct a stadium on a stretch of land in their communities.
Just last week, I interacted with some of the youth leaders in the three communities and none of them had an inkling of a brewing crisis over the alleged bid to construct a stadium there. How he conjured this beats my imagination.

Nwankwagu and Inyima had before Onyekwelu’s claims, explained that the present government had to wade in partly to protect Chief Elechi’s property in the new city and prevent a breach of public peace.

The Attorney General had said: “The youth wrote and marched to the present governor, saying, ‘If this man (former governor) does not stop this thing (work)…he is annoying us’. And so, the governor, in his magnanimity and wisdom, said, ‘Please, convey and make a letter to him and draw his attention to these restive youths’.

“The papers are there; the documents and the letters they wrote to the governor are there.  There is no reason why we should see something that will affect him (Chief Elechi) or his property and keep silent. No, we should draw his attention.”
The author also claims that there are plans by the government to revoke all titles to the plots in OchoUdo City in order to make its own input and favour its cronies. To make his claim believable, ‘Onyekwelu’ wrote that penultimate week, the government cancelled allocations of stalls carried out by the then government of Elechi at the International Market and commenced the rehabilitation of the Abakpa Market to the amazement of traders who claimed they were not informed of the plan.

Wao! Another conjecture! The incumbent government never cancelled any allocation. What it merely did was direct that no single individual had more than a stall allocated to him. Onyekwelu depended on hearsay to craft his one-sided piece. He does not live in Abakaliki and therefore lacks a thorough knowledge of what is on the ground in the town.

Work is only going on the meat section of the Abakpa Market. Already, Gunning Road has been rehabilitated and the residents provided with streetlight. Both jobs started simultaneously after the governor had visited twice to sensitise the traders. The visits were followed by massive announcements on both the state radio and television stations advising the traders to make room for the rehabilitation to go on smoothly. Before work commenced on Gunning Road where the Abakpa Market is situated, the government embarked on announcements advising traders to make room for the rehabilitation of Gunning Road.
It is important for the likes of ‘Onyekwelu’ to know that Governor Umahi has a high capacity to absorb punches, be tolerant, friendly and firm.
Anya is Chief Press Secretary to Ebonyi State Governor

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