The Anambra State Materials Testing Laboratory has submitted its report on the structural integrity tests it carried out on buildings sealed by the state government at the Ochanja Central Market, Onitsha.
On the 15th of July this year, a joint team from the State Ministry of Trade and Commerce and the State Physical Planning Board, ANSPPB had visited the Ochanja market after reports of illegal constructions going on.
During the visit, it was observed that a lot of buildings had been constructed illegally without approval, while spaces provided for recreational parks and the fire service department had been built up by individuals.
After the visit, the Minsitry and the Board had commissioned the State Materials Testing Laboratory to carry out integrity tests on the buildings especially with complaints of casualties resulting from the partial collapse of some of the buildings.
Handing over the report, the Executive Chairman of the Lab, Mr Ebosie Ezeoke explained that in doing their work, they went on four different occasions precisely Sundays to the market, so as not to obstruct business activities
He noted that they received cooperation of the market union but noted that there were instances of non-compliance and without testing the buildings, they cannot say whether the structures passed the tests.
“In the reports, you will find the sketches, blocks, columns, beams and other aspects of the buildings so as to identify the blocks that were tested and those not tested,” he said.
Addressing the market union, Ezeoke warned them that there are consequences for non-compliance with the government lab which include sealing off of the buildings and probable pulling down.
Receiving the report, the State Commissioner for Trade and Commerce, Mr Obinna Ngonadi recalled how during the visit of 15th of July, the state team observed disturbing developments which necessitated the setting up of the committee on the directive of the state governor, Prof Chukwuma Soludo.
“We however observed that some of the structures were done before the advent of the Soludo government and also the masterplan of the market had been bastardized.
“We also observed that the accepted stipulation for the floor has been violated. The floors are supposed to be maximum two but many had three floors and the market union claimed they got verbal approval.
“So, it became important that the lab conducts this test,” Ngonadi said.
The Commissioner who revealed that the state government is interested in protecting the life of every Anambra business person, said the report will be presented to the governor and a decision will be taken on the matter.
He however said from his interactions with the Lab, even if those buildings are going to stay, a significant part of them will be reviewed
Ngonadi revealed that the exercise will be extended to other markets to ensure safe business environment for the people.
On his part, the ANSPPB Chairman, Barr Chike Maduekwe expressed delight that the Lab submitted its report timeously, to enable government commence actions at saving lives before it is too late.
He regretted that despite the various markets that abound in the state, they do not translate to the appropriate revenue for the government due to gross illegalities that are perpetrated in the markets.
“The market is a disaster waiting to happen and the day these things will happen, you don’t know who will be there and that is why we must ensure standards in the building business.
“We thank Mr governor for insisting that Anambra will be a liveable, prosperous homeland.
“We hope that the union will accept the report in good faith as what is being done is to save lives,” Maduekwe said.
The ANSPPB boss also revealed that the Board will commence ‘Operation Show Your Permit’ from the 1st of October, 2022.
“Under this drive, anybody who has built anything in the past five years will show us their permits and this will help us to check illegalities.
“Also, anyone who wants to build a market will send the plan to physical planning.
“It is not just about revenue but also about safety of our people,” he noted.
Maduekwe noted that by the time government finalizes its plans for broadband and connectivity, the markets will be a safe place for business activities.
“We don’t want people thinking that this government is bringing too much hardship.
“That is not true but someone has to start the drive to get our people to do the right things,” he insisted.
In his remarks, the Chairman of Ochanja Central market, Bonaventure Muo said they are willing to comply with the government but expressed worry that lack of continuity in policy by the state government has been the major reason for the illegality in the markets.