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Madalla bomb blast:How landlords protested neglect

Published by Tribune on Thu, 16 Feb 2012

A mild drama occurred last weekend on the premises of St. Theresa Catholic Church, Madalla, in Suleja Local Government Area of Niger State, when some of the people, whose residential and commercial buildings were seriously damaged in the last Christmas day bomb atteck by the dreaded Boko Haram Islamic sect, staged a peaceful protest over perceived neglect and nonchalant attitude towards their plight by both the Federal and the Niger State Governments.The enraged landlords and landladies, in conjunction with some of their tenants, numbering about 50, bemoaned their neglects by the relevant authorities, and stormed the church's premises with a view to disrupting the second round of donations to the victims of the bomb attack by officials of the Niger State government, led by the state's Commissioner for Health and Hospital Services, Mallam Yahaya Dan Sallahu.Also present on the occasion were the officials of the state's Emergency Management Agency led by its Director-General, Mr. Mohammed Shaba, who accompanied Dansallahu for the donation of a 500 KVA generator to the church's management, while about 30 injured victims, who were recently discharged from various hospitals in Abuja, were also given cash donations of about N7.5million at N250, 000 each. Five others, who lost their cars to the fire incident which occurred as a result of the bomb attack, were given N500,000 each as compensation.Others, who were assisted with various cash donations ranging from N100,000 to N150,000 by the state government, were shop owners whose articles of trade were destroyed in the bomb attack.The protesters, led by Mr Emmanu-el O. Ehigwe, the Chief Executive Officer of Air-Max Computer Institute, a computer training institute in conjunction with Alhaji Usman Ndanusa, Mrs Chinyere Iheme and Mrs Austin Ezike, stated that the property owners were particularly not happy because they had listened to both the health commissioner and the Director-General, Niger State Emergency Management Agency, Mr Shaba, saying that there was an agreement between the state and the Federal Government for Niger State to care for only the families of the deceased and the surviving, injured victims of the bomb attack while the Federal Government was to care for those whose properties were destroyed.'And for that we have been looking forward that a better thing should have been done to us . But we felt that nothing actually has been done by the Federal Government agencies that were saddled with the responsibilities of assisting us in the last six weeks. And if an agency was set up to give an emergency aid to people who lost lives and properties to the bomb attack , we think they should learn from the good example of the Niger State Government because exactly six days after the incident, the state government responded positively and they started issuing cheques to the victims. But we who own the properties also expected the same treatment as they gave N3million to the Catholic Church and N1million each to other churches that were damaged by the bomb attack and we expected that the Federal Government should extend same treatment to us,' said the protesters.They, however, argued that the building materials brought to them by the National Emergency Agency were either inadequate or was not the exact materials used by them (property owners).According to Ehigwe, 'I used Aluminium zinc, but they brought ordinary old zinc, what would I use the old zinc for. We should have a rethink and I am begging the Director General of NEMA to please change his old approach to solving problems and he should be reminded that the Christmas day's unfortunate incident was not a natural disaster and neither is Madalla town a remote village whereby people lost their properties to flood and NEMA will go there and give them tents, blankets, old zincs, food stuffs, mattresses among others. But Madalla is a developed town where people built mansions.'The businessman who put his property at about N11million, further argued that in some other places, his own type of property was being bought at huge sums of money by government officials, adding that those of them who are in private businesses and had struggled to put up structure estimated at several millions of Naira to attend to the needs of youths who were coming from far places including Abuja, added that government should see it in that light .'The type of woods brought for us by NEMA are inferior to the iron woods I used in roofing my house and it is high time we started telling ourselves the truth. We as a people ought to have a positive thinking and a change of heart and approach so that disasters like this could stop. I begin to feel this way because I found myself a victim and that there are other people who are not as opportuned as I am to speak out about their plight.'We are begging President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to please come to our aid by revisiting what NEMA has done for us as well as sending a government functionary to come to Madalla so that they can have a re-look at the relief materials that were actually brought compared to the magnitude of our losses by an agency that is claiming to represent the President of the country. If this is what they call relief materials, I do not think they have represented him very well and they have not exhibited in their attitude that they have come to represent a whole President of our great nation. In fact it is very shameful because NEMA'S approach is not too good to us.'They further disclosed that each of them had invited estate valuers to give them a conservative amount of their losses and each person had actually done his or her own valuation.Mr Ehigwe also stated that his one storey building beside St. Theresa Catholic Church's building has since been completed adding that his plans was to start the painting of the building on December 27, last year with the view to start using the building for computer training for the students or trainees on January 10, this year. In fact, the damages that I have incurred on the property is over N11million.He, however, argued that he was not saying that the Federal Government should pay him the exact amount of N11million, rather he said he and other property owners should be allowed to buy what was needed to reconstruct their individual buildings instead of being given what they would not need just like NEMA had done.'But don't give us what we will not need and you think you are helping us, we have the market for building materials here in Madalla, we are not living in a desert, we know where to buy what we need. The Federal Government should be able to give us some money even if it is not up to what we lost. It should also go a step further to call its estate valuers to value the individual properties that were destroyed by the bomb attack and they should give us what they think is reasonable, we are going to consider that and we would welcome it.Another property owner, Mrs. Chinyere Iheme puts the cost of the damage to her five bedroom and six units of one bedroom self contained property at about N5million. In fact, when I got here this morning, I was angry after seeing the zinc brought by NEMA, to us at Madalla because I used aluminium red zinc to roof my house. So, if NEMA should give me that ordinary zinc, I do not know what I will do with it.'She, however, disclosed that because of the fears of being caught unawares by rain she has started roofing her house on her own since no one could say precisely when the Federal Government would be ready to fulfill the promise of rebuilding their houses for them.'The one I live in with my children is five bedroom flat and the other one is that six units of one bedroom self contained and a two bedroom flat. My husband has not been around, as such I am living in the house with my children, therefore I took the pains to start removing the damaged aluminium red zinc.'But another painful thing is the attitude of the people in this area who asked that we should submit the estimate of what was damaged in our houses. I am not a member of the Catholic Church but the church's management said we should come and submit it and I had since done that. Thereafter, somebody took a snapshot of my house and went ahead to accuse me of using my hands to damage my own roofing sheets, just for me to collect government's money . And I don't know how it is possible for me to do that', she stated.Iheme emphasised that what was expected of the Government was to give the property owners succour, with the view to encourage them to move on again, just as she made a passionate appeal to the appropriate authorities to hasten work on it so that it could be useful to them individually.'So, I am appealing through your esteem medium to please come up with something that will be so meaningful to us and we would appreciate that but the management of St. Theresa Catholic Church, should be advised to stop treating us as if we are trying to feed on other people's blood when only what we have been trying to do is to present our cases dispassionately and the choice of their words could be so painful and it is not good,' she added.Similarly, Alhaji Usman Ndanusa, another property owner said that for the past six weeks when his property he let out to tenants was seriously damaged, the tenants in the house had been rendered homeless. He pleaded with the Federal Government to come to their aid so that they could rebuild the structure, so that their tenants could go back and continued with their normal life.'I invited a professional estate valuer and he valued everything at the cost of about N6million and there were about nine self contained one bedroom buildings in my compound. The glasses, ceilings, roofing sheets were all shattered. So, we are calling on both the Federal and Niger State Governments to come to the aid of the property owners so that they can also touch our hearts too just like they did to the dead and injured victims of the bomb attack,' Ndanusa pleaded .Also giving a detailed account of the damage done to her property was one Mrs Austin Ezike, who told the Nigerian Tribune that, 'we have a two bedroom house in our compound and one bedroom flat as well as three corner shops, all in suites and which were affected by the bomb blasts and since then the government has promised to compensate us and actually we have been waiting to receive them for about six weeks now and there has been no assistance from anybody.'We know that the Niger State Emergency Management Agency has been coming to distribute money to the bereaved families, injured persons and some of the Churches around . But they are not even talking to us the property owners.'She expressed disgust about the lip service being paid by NEMA to assist the property owners, adding that even going by the type of building materials supplied by the organisation she said it was not the type expected by herself and some of her colleagues.'Though the most important thing to us is the grace given to us by God that we are counted among the living souls,' she added.She added that some of the tenants in her compound whose personal properties were also destroyed and had since been rendered homeless after the bomb explosions were not even patient or understood that it was not her fault that they were badly affected by the incident.'What we have been facing since then is really disgusting and we are not happy about it as someone like me , with four kids, have been sleeping in our house without louver blades on our windows, mosquito nets and without roofing sheets on our house since the incident occurred and in this very harsh weather. In fact, we are undergoing harrowing experiences and it has not been easy for us as a family. We are begging them to help us rebuild our houses if they could be of assistance to both the families of the bereaved members of the church and the survivors.Meanwhile, the Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria, Niger State chapter, Revd. Musa Dada, has enjoined the property owners to exercise patience as it could be wrong on their part to feel that they have been forgotten, adding that he personally did not believe that.'What I want them to do is to be patient and then we will find out from the Reverend Father Isaac Achi because St. Theresa Catholic Church is a renowned name and it is being heard everywhere both locally and internationally.But we were made to understand that the Reverend Father once said that it was not only his church members that were affected in the bomb blasts, as he noted that some Muslims were also affected. So, I am believing that if there is any assistance being made by some donors, including the Federal Government and Niger State Government, nobody would be left unattended to'.He emphasised the need for the embattled property owners to be patient, adding that it was time for the collection of the aid from the different organisations but when it gets to the time of sharing, if some victims were not carried along, then such people have the right to complain but advised that the time was not yet ripe for complaints.'To be sincere, what I saw as relief materials brought by the National Emergency Management Agency are a far cry and not enough compared to the loss of the owners of the structure that were damaged in the blasts. In fact, if this is the only thing they are bringing, I will say that they need to revisit the issue,' said the Clergy man.In his own reaction, Reverend Father Isaac Achi, stated that the decisions of the protesters to conclude that the Federal and Niger State Governments had abandoned them did not portray them as being sincere with themselves.Also the Liaison Officer, Zonal office of NEMA at Abuja , who gave his names as Mr Isaiah Yisa Chonoko, accused the protesters of not being patient enough to understand that the Federal Government had not abandoned them to their fate.'We are supposed to have been here earlier but because of logistics problems that we encountered, we were not here but at last we are here now. We know quite alright that our faces here will not mean anything to these people that were affected by this loss, but we need to come with substances. The Federal Government has graciously approved some relief materials to assist the victims of this last bomb blasts at Madalla. Although I do not know the estimated costs,' he stated.Chonoko further disclosed that the assistance has been categorised into assisting women that lost their husbands in terms of food items and household utensils, building materials to put the structures back into use , adding that a lot of building materials were approved to assist these victims.'And like I said earlier, we were not supposed to come with empty hands in our attempts to come and meet these people that were affected by this crisis and we need to come with something to give them to start life again and if I came probably at 7 o'clock in the morning without bringing anything, the Journalists who were already here to witness the occasion would have asked me what NEMA brought and it would look as if we do not know what we are doing,' explained Chonoko.
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