Before Imo Library Is Demolished For Car Park


oga kcc

It was a bright Monday morning, yours truly was on the wheels heading to office for my regular beat in Owerri, the Imo State capital. As I moved towards Government House/Okigwe road roundabout from Bank Road/Assumpta Avenue, a crowd gathered at the Library Complex bordering Government House. My journalistic instinct did not allow me to pass without observing the interesting scene.
To enable me catch the action, I made a quick detour to Whetheral Road before entering the adjourning old Okigwe road, to park my vehicle. When I finally made it to the library complex for the on-the-spot assessment, two white-coloured trucks were packed inside the complex with angry workers barking against the action. As a shrewd news hunter, I tried to put my ears on the ground to get the real story. And what was it; that the State Government under the able leadership of Owelle Rochas Okorocha brought the trucks for immediate evacuation of library items and workers to another office in New Owerri, near the Ahiajoku Centre, while the old structure will be demolished to pave way for the creation of a new car park that will serve worshippers of the newly- constructed inter-denominational church at the Government House.
I need not bore readers with what I witnessed and unprintable verbal curses extended to the state government actors for attempting to relocate the state library and workers before the bulldozers would roll in. However, the enraged workers defied instructions from their management to resist the forced relocation. Instead of parking their items onto the waiting trucks, the workers decided to not only enter the vehicles but also embarked on an impromptu protest march that saw them move to the State House of Assembly for demonstration.
Further reports revealed that the library and workers have been directed to relocate to New Owerri, where a provision has been made for accommodation as well as facilities for e-library.
Before the State Library is demolished to pave way for a car park, it is pertinent to reflex on common unnoticed issues that should not be easily swept off by government of the day. The library complex is older than Imo State, and one of the remarkable structural landmarks of depicting Eastern region in Owerri, the Imo State capital. It was one of the divisional libraries created by the East Central State for Owerri, Aba, Onitsha, and Umuahia. It was converted to a state library by the Imo State Government when the state was created in 1976. Successive military and civilian governors maintained the status quo and location until recently when the present government is experimenting with relocation of the library and demolition of the old structure.
The purpose for the relocation and demolition of the library is borne out of Governor Okorocha’s fervent desire to create a spacious car park for the new church complex nearing completion in Government House. I don’t think there is nothing wrong with relocation of a library complex from old site to a new complex. After all, various ministries in the state moved from their old Okigwe and Orlu roads offices to the New Secretariat Complex on PortHarcourt Road, in the state capital, courtesy of Achike Udenwa government. I can also confirm that at a time, Members of the Imo State House of Assembly had their legislative business at the Owerri Municipal Council office, opposite Post Office, before the present gigantic edifice started by Sam Mbakwe administration was later completed and put in the use by the regime of Evan Enwerem in the early 90’s. Therefore, it is not an unfamiliar trend for government parasatals and agencies relocating their offices for administrative and operational conveniences.
However, that of the state library is an exception unlike the aforementioned government offices who moved from temporary and improper abode to permanent and conducive environment. As the acclaimed Commander of Free Education who has unquenchable thirst for education for all slogans, making a mince-meat of the library sector would be a big minus to one of his cardinal policies.
Since I am not opposed to relocation, I considered it necessary to verify the new location and suitability for library services. In the course of my investigation, I observed that the new location near the Ahiajoku Centre lacks the basic ingredients needed for a functional public library. The new library building is one of the recently renovated buildings in the area that could be best described as either a make-shift structure or another temporary arrangement. The building is small-sized duplex that would make mockery of a state library with limited reading halls and operational office spaces. There are designed criteria for a functional library. Though I am not an expert or professional in library management or technology, but as an avid patronizer of library services, a public library is expected to have more than four reading halls; a public reading hall for references, a reading hall for lending of book, an adult reading hall, a children reading hall and additional reading hall for handicapped and disabled person. Each of these halls are created for certain purposes and to eliminate psychological effect among categories of people assessing library books. Unlike the library on Bank Road, the proposed building at the new site near Ahiajoku Centre is at variance with stipulated guidelines for a state public library. Even the design and nature of the building in New Owerri is also in contrast with approval methods of structures housing a library, not to talk of an e-library that is highly sophisticated with modern facilities.
For a conducive library house, the ceiling level must be high and lengthy enough to not only accommodate high level book shelves but also contain reading tables as obtained in the Bank Road library against the new building that has no such design.
One pertinent question that comes to the minds of keen observers of the unfolding event is whether the new site was originally meant to house the state library or an after-thought borne out of emergency desire to relocate the state library and utilize the space for church car park?
There is no doubt that the new site was not originally planned to accommodate the state library as the buildings had existed for years before Okorocha’s government gave it a facelift. Certainly, there was no feasibility and pre-construction measures taken to reflect a library structure for the state. The new complex is lacking in size and design and definitely a caricature of a state library.
I must also thumb-up for Members of the Imo State House of Assembly who were reported to have kicked against the planned relocation and subsequent demolition of the structures by adopting a resolution against the Governor’s wish. Their resolution is in tandem with the desire of the people.
The state library and indeed other government structures belong to the citizenry and not Governor of the state as the case may be. Willful demolition of public structures Okorocha met without justifiable and accepted reasons is reprehensible. In this era where the Rescue Mission administration is claiming to rediscover the Owerri Master Plan, is the new church building for which the state library premises is marked for demolition for car park purposes included in the Owerri Master Plan? I want to also ask if the state library structures waiting for the bulldozers are not also captured in the Master Plan?
The State Government House has a befitting Chapel for prayers and religious activities. The erection of another bogus church within the premises could be said to be a wasteful venture since the famous “Douglas House” is the seat of power in the state and not centre for religious worship as the new church suggest. Sacrificing the evergreen state library complex without adequate and befitting replacement is counter-productive. I expect our dear governor to consider the interest of Imolites and generality of residents of the state who consider the library premises a central place in the state capital before demolishing the library complex as Government House and library complex are not his personal property and he would not live in Douglas House forever.