Since the commencement of the construction of Nnewi Shopping Mall during the administration of Former Governor of Anambra State His Excellency Mr. Peter Obi, the project has been riddled with many controversies both from the angle of the Government and the host community Nnewi.
The Shopping Mall is situated at the heart of the town which is Nkwo Nnewi triangle.
Nkwo Nnewi triangle is a communal land of Nnewi, it is owned by all the four quarters in Nnewi which include Otolo, Uruagu, Umudim and Nnewichi and remains the meeting point for the people of Nnewi.
Despite being a communal land of Nnewi, various attempts has been made by unpatriotic Nnewi indigenes to either hoodwink the town into selling the land or conniving with the government officials to forcefully take the land.
However in 2013, The then Governor of Anambra state, His Excellency Mr. Peter Obi allegedly conspired with some businessmen who are mostly from Nnewi to take over the land for a shopping mall project without due Process.
The project was awarded to an unnamed Chinese firm at the cost of #3 Billion Naira.
During the ground breaking ceremony in 2013, Governor Peter Obi announced that the Government has paid #600 Million Naira mobilization fee to the contractor which represent the 20% of the contract Sum.
However, before construction fully started, some group of patriotic Nnewi indigenes led by Senator Onyeabo Obi kicked against the project and the manner the land was taken from the town.
They took the government to court and an injunction was given which ordered the government to stop the project. Despite the court injunction, the government continued with the construction of the project.
The state government failed to follow the Procedure as stipulated in the land use act, while it is the right of the government to take over any land in any part of the state for projects, the law stipulates that it will be in the overriding public interest. A commercial venture doesn’t meet that requirement.
As the legal battle continued, in 2017, the present Governor of Anambra state His Excellency Dr. Willie Obiano wrote a letter addressed to His Royal Highness Igwe Kenneth Orizu (111) Igwe Nnewi announcing that the uncompleted shopping mall project have been handed to Nnewi with the following conditions:
1. That Nnewi will refund all the money spent by the government so far on the project.
2. That Nnewi will complete the project with the time envisaged in the original plan.
3. That Nnewi after completion of the project will let the shopping mall to those who it was contracted to.
This sparked jubilation among some indigenes of the town but some patriotic Nnewi indigenes rejected the Governors proposal with the following points:
1. That the state government must cancel the gazette which took the land away from Nnewi.
2: That the state government must hand over the land to Nnewi unconditionally.
3. That the state government must pay #500 million Naira as damages to the town.
However, it is important to note that if the Governor was sincere, the letter should not have been addressed to Igwe Nnewi but to the President General of Nzuko-Ora Nnewi as a law in Anambra state have stripped the rights of Igwe’s in taking decision concerning issues of governance in their Communities especially as it concerns projects.
The truth remains that it is against all known government standard practice and ethics for uncompleted project to be handed over a community. Nnewi as a town never solicited for the government to construct a shopping mall in the town, hence handing over the project to the town remains a trap to destroy the town.
Earlier this year, in what may appear to be a surprise to many, the Government of Anambra state through its agency Anambra state investment and protection agency (ANSIPPA) placed a newspaper advert announcing the privatisation of Nnewi shopping mall and called for bidders. Though nothing have been heard since the advertorial was placed.
This act once again shows insincerity on the part of the state government.
It appears that the Nnewi community will continue to wait till God knows when before the controversy ends.
It is very unfortunate that some rich men in the town have continued to conspire with the state government to frustrate efforts being made by the town to recover Nkwo Nnewi Triangle.
Nkwo Nnewi Triangle because of its position to Nnewi should have been used for projects like Conference Center or rather relaxation park with garden and stadium which will be more befitting than building a shopping mall.
An American firm last few years wanted to buy the land to build a library, shops and five star hotel but the leadership of the town rejected the idea.
As it stands, the fact remains that allowing a shopping mall to be built in Nnewi will close down many shops in Nkwo Nnewi and will also destroy the local economy in the town.
The government should rather remodel Nkwo Nnewi market and make it more friendly for buyers and sellers by providing convenient parking places, good toilet facilities as seen in modern shopping malls.
Nnewi, Anambra State.