Sunday Magazine

Homes to warehouses: How landlords are making Aba uninhabitable

Pa Nwagbara is of the opinion that nobody has the right to advice or instruct him of what to do with his building as long as that particular person did not contribute any money to him during the construction of the building.

 

Nwagbara, a landlord of many buildings located within Asa Road and neighbouring streets in Aba, Abia State, told our reporter that his decision to convert parts of one of his houses into a warehouse is nobody’s business, adding that no one has the right to question that.

 

“See, I suffered to build all my houses and as far as I’m concerned, I didn’t borrow money from anybody to build them. The particular house you’re talking about has over 20 single rooms with about three flats.

 

“The rooms downstairs were once occupied by tenants, but when traders at Kent by Shopping Centre approached me for a warehouse, their offer was far better than what any residential tenant can offer, so I gave it to them,” Nwagbara said.

Nwagbara, who was visibly angry that our reporter asked why one of his house which was once a residential home suddenly became a business centre and warehouse, said his main interest is who can offer more money.

 

Homes to warehouses: How landlords
are making Aba uninhabitable”I didn’t chase the tenants out, I waited for their monies to expire, when it did, I brought in those traders that are using the place vacated by my old tenants. The traders are still making use of it and I don’t know why this is a problem to those who told you about it. Do you have a problem with that?

“Nobody is disturbing me not even government. So, if an ordinary tenant is offering me N50, 000 for a room while a trader is willing to offer me N80, 000-N100, 000 to park his goods there, I should say no that it’s a residential home?

 

That’s funny!” he said. However, many residents are of the opinion that the attitude of the landlords have led to mass exodus of residents out of Aba metropolis as they cannot compete with traders in the battle for rent.

Others believe that the proximity of the markets are the indirect cause of the problem, as almost all the buildings closer to the markets in the metropolis are suddenly being converted into warehouse and mini parking stores. With hundreds of thousands of customers visiting Aba on daily basis from different parts of West Africa, businesses are expanding, but still concentrated in the same location with zero expansion in sight.

 

The distances between the Eziukwu Market (Cemetery Market), Ahia-Ohuru (New Market) and the Ekeoha Market (Shopping Centre) are barely five minutes’ drive from each other. In fact these three above mentioned major markets are located in Aba South Local Government Area, within the Aba metropolis.

 

“Are you seeing what’s going on here? If you’re observing it, then you’ll know that traders are chasing residents out of Aba South LGA. “Aba North is affected, but Aba South is no longer a residential area. It’s the fault of our government who don’t know how to plan a city,” Engr. Mike Ukandu said.

Ukandu said he was expecting that by 2020, major markets in Aba would have been partitioned with some of them relocated to create more space in the main town. “I was born here. I grew up here, but I’m shocked at what I’m seeing.

 

Areas we know as homes are turning into warehouses while, the bushes are still there around Osisioma, Ugwunagbo and Obingwa LGAs. “I think the major issue is not just about the markets or the landlords, its lack of proper   planning. Many homes in Aba are minor factories and minor markets.

 

“Go to Ehi Road, you’ll see that almost all the printing presses there are located in residential houses. Go to Market Road, you’ll see that all those places they sell rice, beverages, flour and groundnut oil are all residential buildings. It’s same thing at Jubilee Road.

 

“All those places at Jubilee Road where they sell tricycles, generators and motorcycle parts are all residential buildings. What about the Saint Michael’s Road phone and computer accessories’ market?

 

Is that place not a residential area? “So, you’ll see that what you even have at Etche Road and Danfodio Road are can’t be compared to these places I just talked about.

 

“What about Pound Road? It has been converted to a cooking gadgets’ market. That’s where almost all the imported pots, cooking gas, irons and refrigerators and deep freezers are sold. “What about Hospital Road that used to be a quiet residential area? It’s now the electrical parts market of the current Aba.

 

The whole places is jam-packed and noisy. “All these businesses are done in buildings where people reside and you want to have sanity and descent environment? Abia State government is a joke when it comes to town planning and environment.”

 

Joseph Asimonyetom, a resident of Ndiegoro, Aba said that the major reason why the city’s business centres are not expanding properly could be linked to bad roads and insecurity. He said: “Let’s not pretend we don’t know what’s happening.

 

Some years back, that should be around 2006, government build a market outside far away from the three major markets in town. “You know that almost all the major markets are in Aba South apart from Ariaria that’s between Osisioma and Aba North LGA. Government built another market called Orie-Ohabiam in the same Aba South, but almost at the outskirts around Aba-Port Harcourt road.

 

“That market was supposed to be occupied by all those electronics dealers that were chased away from Pound Road because Pound Road used to be the main electronics centre in Aba. However, the condition of the Port Harcourt road became a problem barely few years after the construction of that market. “As at 2010, almost all the traders that relocated from Pound Road to Orie-Ohabiam began to return.

 

Some of them ended up at Ekeoha Market (Shopping Centre). “You know that Ekeoha Market was previously a market for just clothing and textiles. It was the failure of Orie-Ohabiam that pushed many electronics’ dealers into the Shopping Centre and today, that market has lost its glory. “Orie-Ohabiam is wasting there because there’s no road to access it.

 

Again, most times   when people build warehouses around areas like Umuode, Umuojima, Abayi-Ariaria, Umuogele or even Ogbor-Hill, they experience burglaries. “Yes, the roads may be bad, the markets may be far from those areas, but the security situation is also a problem in different parts of Aba.

“We can’t ignore that at all. I know many persons who bought lands to build houses around Mkpumkpu-Evula, in Umunkama axis of Ugwunagbo LGA, but left them and ran back into Aba Township to become tenants due to terrible roads and insecurity.

Landlords are now seeing their buildings as oil wells, so, who’ll blame them? Sunday Telegraph reports that the trend of converting residential homes into warehouses, shops and production centres have been responsible for almost all the fire outbreaks in Aba that have led to loss of properties for residents.

 

In areas like Kent Street, Nsulu Streets, Akwette Streets, Ndoki road and the entire Ama-Mmogho axis where tailors and fashion designers have turned homes into their sewing centres, several cases of fire outbreaks resulting from electricity sparks have been recorded over the years. For instance on Saturday, October 3, a part of a residential home situated on No 101 Etche road, collapsed after a 40-foot container load of goods was offloaded there.

 

An eyewitness, Solomon Agala said: “It was around 12noon on Saturday, the building collapsed just after half of the goods inside the container had been offloaded. “They brought in a giant bale there, the walls cracked a little. As if that wasn’t enough warning signal, they still went ahead to bring in a 40-foot container inside same building.

 

“They had offloaded about 20 feet, remaining half, when the weight of the goods led to the collapse of the building and destroyed all the household equipment around other residents’ apartments.

 

“It’s God that saved the tenants because almost all their children were not at home when this ugly incident happened. I learnt that EEDC took light and immediately they took the light, children went out to play, and all of a sudden, the incident occurred.”

 

Sunday Telegraph reports that part of the No 101 Etche Road that collapsed have been reconstructed without delay and all activities previously going on there, returned as if nothing happened.

 

A source close to some of the tenants whose properties were destroyed during the collapse said that negotiation took place between the tenants, the owner of the warehouse and the landlord to work out compensation for those affected.

 

Traders to Ikpeazu: Stop adding new structures to old shopping centre

 

Following the collapse of a poorly constructed warehouse, traders at Ekeoha Shopping Centre, Aba, Abia State have pleaded with Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu to save lives by stopping the ongoing erection of new shops within the market.

 

The traders said that the collapse of the warehouse described as one of illegal structures at the market on the night of October 1, is enough danger signal to stop further construction of such structures.

 

They said that although the collapsed warehouse was not constructed during the tenure of the current market Chairman, Mr. Friday Dimiri but it is necessary government stops him from going ahead with the ongoing erection of what they called more dangerous illegal structures around the market.

 

Last month, traders at the Shopping Centre wrote a petition to Abia State House of Assembly on the indiscriminate erection of shops on open spaces at the market, which according to them have congested the mar     ket, making it compacted and dangerous for trading. In the petition obtained by Sunday Telegraph, the traders alleged that the Market Chairman and State Ministry of Trade and Investment, have converted open spaces designed for walkways, fire station, banking hall, car parks and emergency exit points for human and vehicular movements to shops. Sunday Telegraph reports that several parts of Ekeoha Shopping Centre, new shops are being erected on top of the older ones, prompting many traders to fear that disaster is waiting to happen. Traders who spoke to our reporter at the market a day after the ware house collapsed, said they thought it was one of the ongoing new structures, only to discover that it was one of the standing illegal structures that gave way. This reporter who monitored the incident reports that immediately after the building collapsed, hoodlums took over the vicinity of the incident and prevented people from coming to the area or coming closer to take photograph of the scene.

 

Sunday Telegraph reports that the hostile attitude of the hoodlums scared people aware from the area until police men from the Aba Area Command Headquarters came to restore order and allowed people to assess the level of damage.

 

A trader at the market, Mr. Harrison Onuorah, said, “This is a serious warning signal that all the illegal constructions here must stop. The previous leadership of the market made errors, today, the current leadership under Mr. “Friday Dimiri as Chairman are complicating issues by erecting more dangerous shops here. We thank God this thing happened in the night and on a day people didn’t even come to the market.

 

“I learnt someone offloaded a 40 feet container on the second floor of the warehouse. That warehouse is among the structures that were never part of the original plans of the market.

 

“The collapse was as a result of overload and the poor construction they did there. It destroyed goods belonging to other traders on the first floor. If the collapse had taken place during the day, casualties would have been high.

 

“We’ve been shouting about these illegal structures for long. For the past four years, the standard of the structures that are ongoing inside this market is nothing to write home about and may end up taking many lives if government continues to keep quiet. “The structures can’t withstand the goods being stored in it.

 

The collapsed structure you’ve just seen is stronger than what Friday Dimiri and the current market executives are erecting. “This is very dangerous and our Governor needs to help us before people will perish here. We’re sure that the media is taking note of what is happening and when this impending disaster strikes, the world will bear us witness that we warned against it.”

 

Another trader, Enyinnaya Ikechuckwu said: “Ekeoha Shopping Centre has a master plan, but with what’s going on here today, this market is becoming a joke. This warehouse was built years back, but more like it are still here and others under construction. “How can a reasonable person be adding structures on the shops which foundations were not built for what they currently carry?

 

“What the market Chairman is doing in conjunction with Abia Ministry of Trade and Investment inside Ekeoha Shopping Centre is tantamount to forcing people to sit on a keg of gunpowder.

 

“They’ll say the collapse warehouse wasn’t built by them, but they’re repeating recent errors here. They’re converting bungalows into storey buildings and storey buildings into two storey buildings inside a very busy market thousands of buyers and sellers.”

 

Another trader who simply gave his name as Kenneth said that many traders are beginning to feel unsafe with the manner illegal structures are springing up at Ekeoha Shopping Centre daily.

 

Kenneth told our reporter that anyone expressing contrary view to that of the current market leadership is tagged enemy of government and is harassed by hired hoodlums allegedly on the orders of the market leaders.

 

“Everybody except few brave ones is afraid of speaking out because it seems as if the market has been taken over by hoodlums. Just last month they attacked officials from Abia House of Assembly who came here to verify the situation of things.

 

“You can see how this weak structure nearly brought disaster upon us, but the market Chairman is adamant and busy erecting shops all over the markets without giving a hoot about the safety of traders. I thank God nobody died, but government can save lives if they want to.

 

“If they chose to remain quiet and make people believe that simply because the market Chairman is from the same village with the Governor’s wife, nothing will happen, then many lives will soon perish her due to dirty politics.”

 

A reliable source at the market told our reporter that the Abia State House of Assembly is currently investigating the activities of the market leadership over the illegal structures and other illegal activities.

 

When contacted, Mr. Friday Dimiri, Chairman of Ekeoha Shopping Centre told Sunday Telegraph that it was not necessary to call him on phone to get his own side of the story since our reporter said he saw everything the collapsed structure.

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