By; PATRICK TITUS, Uyo
What could best be described as given bread with the right hand to the needy to save lives but taking it back shortly afterwards with the left hand, simply defined the recent attitude of the University of Uyo Management towards shop operators in the annex campus of the institution, Uyo Akwa Ibom State.
The traders and shop owners who said that there were officially allocated space by the university management for a fee to build containers are crying helplessly, raising an alarm over what they termed “selective demolition” of some shops in the school by the management who ruined their source of income.
According to the traders, they have been paying rent monthly to the school management until March last year, when there was a lockdown due to the outbreak of CoronaVirus, a situation that collapsed businesses everywhere.
It was gathered that a demolition team of the institution led by the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Nyaudo Ndaeyo had on March 11, 2021 stormed the area and allegedly pulled down some container shops, leaving out others.
It was further gathered that the victims were not given the opportunity to evacuate their property as the VC allegedly instructed the bulldozer operators to pull down the containers with the contents.
Investigations revealed that the school management had circulated a two-day notice on the fence, directing owners of ‘illegal structures’ to vacate their shops or face the consequences.
One of the victims, Mrs.Treasure Okon who spoke with journalists in Uyo on Monday, lamented that her computers and photocopiers were destroyed during the process addind that her means of livelihood have been shut as well.
She expressed surprise that many other shops in the same vicinity with extensions as alleged by the University authorities as reason for the demolition still have their containers and shops intact.
“I was officially allocated a place by the University Authorities to build a container where I run a business Centre, and I paid rent to the school every month for the space.
“On March 11, this year, officials of the University including the Vice Chancellor came with a bulldozer and demolished everything. I was even working when they came, they switched off my generator, they brought a cartarpillar and destroyed everything.
“It was not only my place, it was up to 15 places, they said the place is illegal and before I knew what was happening, the Chief Security Officer (CSO) directed the bulldozer to destroy the shop.
“So the next day I went to the CSO, he said my place was illegal and I showed him all the receipts. He said I should go and meet the VC that he was the one that gave the directive, since then I have been looking for somebody to help me because they destroyed everything in the shop, they didn’t even allow me to remove anything from the shop,” She lamented amidst tears.
She further added that the authorities later apologized to her and other victims for the demolition.
But the Registrar Aniediabasi Udofia had in a letter to Okon’s lawyer said she acted against the directive of the University for owners of illegal structures in the University premises to remove them.
“It is correct that your client Mrs Treasure Okon applied to the Registrar for space in the Annexe Campus to build a container for a business shop. She was correspondingly issued with a business Venture Payment Permit by the Directorate of General Administration to operate her business in the Annex Campus.
“From the representation in your client’s application, she wanted a space to build a container for her business. She therefore had permission, though impliedly to erect a container and nothing more, to do her business. Your client by erecting something else other than a container had rendered that structure illegal. She was so informed.
“In any case, the University had issued adequate and sufficient notices to business owners/operations in the University, your client inclusive to remove all illegal structures on the University land. Your client had enough time to have acted wisely, but she blatantly disregarded the notices.” The letter had explained.
The Registrar when contacted through phone noted that the only people affected were those who did not get direct approval from his office before erecting shops and have not been paying directly to the University coffers.
He hinted that the design for a permanent structure has already been done adding that the University would reallocate shops first to those who were legally and genuinely assigned shops earlier but were affected.