As research revealed that 45 slum settlements exists in Port Harcourt, capital of the oil-rich Rivers State, an expert in the built environment, Dr. Chris. O. Ibeakuie has urged Rivers State government to embark on Urban Renewal programme in phases.
He argued that the call was imperative because demolition of 45 slum settlements at a time would create social and financial burden on the government since 60 per cent of the entire population of Port Harcourt city are being harboured in the settlements.
Dr. Ibeakuzie who is also the chairman of Nigeria Institute of Town Planners (NITP) Rivers State chapter and a senior lecturer in the department of Urban and Regional Planning, Rivers State University of Science and Technology, Port Harcourt explained that experience has shown that such urban renewal exercise embarked upon in Ndoki water front, Aggrey Road and Marine Base in Port Harcourt by Ada George administration created social problem as people who were thrown-out of the settlement’s were not rehabilitated or allowed to come back due to inability of the government to build enough houses.
Speaking in on exclusive interview with The Weekend Tide in Port Harcourt on Wednesday, the university don was of the view that no government could successfully deal with 45 slums at the same time pointing out that where there is political will to carry out the exercise, the best option is to execute the programme gently and in phases.
Describing urban renewal programme as capital intensive, the NITP boss commended present administration in Rivers State headed by Hon. Chibuike Amaechi for the efforts and payment of compensation on commercial rate in order to please the affected persons.
He acknowledged that urban renewal is a classical tool for repairing urban decay as well as solution for increasing slum settlements in Port Harcourt but he however pointed out that since planning is dynamic and planners began to adjust to the extent that slum clearance and development is not the only instrument today because other, issues like rehabilitation, conservation and slum upgrading among others are also involved.
On government’s ultimatum on painting and re-roofing of houses in Port Harcourt, Dr. Ibeakuzie said the idea to paint houses in Port Harcourt would go along way to beautify the city of Port Harcourt and restore its garden city status.
The NITP boss however appearled to the state government to assist land-lords with grants and loans to enable them re-roof their houses due to huge financial involvement in the project.
He hoped that the committee mandated to look into roofs with Asbestors would come up with something because of heath reasons.
Commenting on the delay in the development of Eagle Island project in Port Harcourt, Dr. Ibeakuzie blamed the situation on the absence of the on-going Eagle Island road construction work over the years.
According to him, Eagle Island was originally planned to be like Victoria Island in Lagos where government would provide facilities like roads, electricity, water, market and hospitals while the individuals would build houses.