By Gift Ogechi Emeana
An urban dwelling area is seen as where growth and development with modernity is found. It is a place that attracts individuals from other communities who come to inhabit it.
There are some basic facilities that residents in an urban area should enjoy, which do not exist in the rural areas, such as constant power supply, pipe borne water supply, good roads, tranquility, clean environment with refuse collection and disposal system.
Apparently the National Urban Development and Housing Programmes were defined in response to the rapid growth of Urban Centre and deteriorating urban living in Nigeria in 1977. This was achieved through the intervention of World Bank Mission designed for low-income groups with basic amenities and good spacing of buildings in the area.
However, this is not the story and experience with residents in World Bank Housing Estate. The area has been found “defaced and dilapidated”. Here are the opinions of the individuals residing in the area gathered by our reporters in an interactive session.
In a discussion with Hon. Barr. Eze Nwagwu, the Legal Adviser of World Bank Neighbourhood Association, noted that since 1983 till now all the infrastructural facilities are in dilapidation; mainly, the road network, water network that had seized to function since 2001, poor power supply with high electricity bill tariff.
He also added that, administratively, they have no political position and affirms that though the area (World Bank) is governed by Owerri Municipal Council but the indigenes of Umuguma community, Owerri West Local Government and Owerri Municipal council who are the rightful owner of the environment have continued to kick against this.
As a result, he said that there is immeasurable extortion of World Bank Housing Estate by these bodies. For instance, when the need to renovate your building arises you are charged by the youths of Umuguma Community who demand, N200,000 drilling of borehole water requires you to pay N40,000 to the youths as well.
He further explained that, the only market in World Bank has been in disarray due to the extortions made by the Imo State Government, greedy politicians, Owerri Municipal Council (Officials and some indigenes of Umuguma Community on the traders.
Again, he stated that the bad smell emitting from the market environment as a result of the refuse dump has made him to stop buying from the market.
He lamented the illegal parks seen at every junctions of the Estate which he claimed, were authorized by Imo State Government. According to him, miscreants controlling the parks terrorize motorists. He said that the cost of transportation from World Bank Housing Estate to other parts of Owerri varies and ranges from N100 to N200.
He stated that, the embarrassing aspect is that the present administration in the Imo State Government invaded that place and imposed levy of N200,000 on every house owner tagged “Grant Rent”, adding that this had been paid earlier during the acquisition of the land. There were threats of revoking the certificate of occupancy on failure to pay. He told our correspondent that there is no other state in the country where World Bank Housing Estate was established that was taxed by the state government except in Imo State.
The Security of the residents was described by Nwagwu as in crisis. In essence, one residing in World Bank would not know which Police Division is in charge of the Security of the area, whether it is the Owerri West L.G.A Police Division or the New Owerri Police Division, especially in places at the last roundabout junction and Ideal Suite Junction where they stand as their checkpoint.
He called on the government authorities to come to their aid in maintaining the roads, constant power, supply, setting up task force to man any illegal dumping of refuse particularly within the World Bank Market area.
Finally, he commended the leadership of World Bank Neighbourhood Association ably lead by High Chief Anthony Ejinkeonye for ensuring that World Bank as an entity still remain functional irrespective of the numerous challenges. Another landlord residing in World Bank Housing Estate, Chief Everest Chukwuemeka Diogu, who spoke with our reporter, said that the government negligence in maintaining facilities such as roads, water supply, power supplies and unapproved taxation by youths of Umuguma Community. He reiterates that this has resulted to landlords in the area to sell off their properties and relocate to Irete, Ogbaku, Uratta, Orji and so on.
He re-affirmed that the World Bank Market Project has been abandoned by the contractor.
Diogu advised that failure to maintain the drainage channel and the dumping of refuse into them had prevented proper drainage resulting in flooding of large areas and serious inconvenience to the population involved.
Again, he lamented that the raising of illegal structures “Green Belt” areas had defaced the original structural plan of World Bank Housing Estate. It has also caused lack of parking space and has not improved the Microclimate Ventilation.
The market place was not built in the right place, he opined. Also, no recreational ground and facilities are found in the area, Not even football playgrounds except in the school compounds found in the area.
He noted that World Bank Housing Estate is meant for low-income earners but has been reconverted to joints, bars and hotels for business men. “Now we are enjoined to roof our houses with Aluminum. Please can you tell me where a poor man can raise money to do so?’ he asked.
Diogu revealed that before the advent of the past administration, residents in World Bank area were enjoying pipe bore water supply. But now, we have been compelled into drilling borehole in this area with close building space. I think the geologist should be in the right position to tell us the hazards in doing so.”
The most troubling incidence in World Bank, he said, is insecurity and robbers. No night passes by without a robbery attack or breaking into the houses of resident in their absence, especially when most people travelled to their different polling units to exercise their franchise during the last Presidential election. We are living in fear. Each time we call on the Police men for aid, they will do nothing but ask you what type of vehicle they came with and other unnecessary questions.
He pleads with the Government to carry out the original plan World Bank Housing Estate was created and should assist in ending crimes happening in the area.
Again, World Bank Housing Estate, as an entity should be allowed to have a traditional ruler, representatives in the Council, in the House of Assembly in Imo State to enable them to look into the affairs of residents, as he emphasized.
Also speaking, Nonso Martins a tenant in World Bank lamented on Landlords’ attitude over the maintenance of their outdated and bad conditional buildings as a modern town. He complained that the house rent is very high even when the properties are in bad shape. He went on to say that it will be very difficult for a low-income earner to pay such an amount in a month.
Nonso begged the government to tar the road in the area with a regular power supply with reasonable tariff.
A clergy residing in World Bank Housing Estate, Pastor Kelechi Ubaeze, has this view on the areas as bad roads, no pipe bore water supply, most buildings are not in line with the modern architectural design and the concerned landlords are not ready to maintain or rebuild them.
Furthermore, he said that the open spaces have been illegally reconverted to other purposes rather than the original plan. Some people are living in an uncompleted buildings found in the area.
He suggested that since the scheme is for low-income earners, the government should set up a board that will control the unreasonable house rent in the World Bank Housing Estate
Eze chigozie a landlord residing in World Bank area made clear his view by pointing out that it is bad road, insecurity, poor power supply, and no water supply. He further stated that World Bank should be a green pasture with good amenities in the place as he beckons on the Government to assist makes the place better.