By Mambe Njikofore Mande
Buea is reportedly the current fastest growing city in Cameroon. Beautiful structures are daily, sprouting in the municipality. Understandably, construction material business is brisk; so too is revenue accruing to the council from building permit fees. But on the flip side of this development is the obliteration of the aesthetics, of the beauty of this town of legendary hospitality.
Political consideration and expedience have, by and large, taken precedence over sustainable town planning. So too has pecuniary or selfish fiscal interest overtaken the exigencies of sustainable town planning legislation. The only visible development being embarked upon by the municipal council is the littering of pavements with structures, meant to be rented out to traders. The council appears to be doing nothing else other than digging up every open space and squeezing in these boxes that go for building structures. All other development is undertaken by individuals, many of who are civil administrators and other privileged civil servants that have managed to grab land and stolen state funds.
It started off at the municipal Motor Park at Mile 17 where buses and other commuter vehicles now practically scrub at one another for want of space.
A recent demolition exercise embarked upon by local authorities was ostensibly to create space for pedestrians and motorists to have ample space to go around their businesses unfettered. But that does not seem to be the case as the much sought after space is now overtaken by boutiques commandeered by authorities of the municipality. Green spaces are now almost totally absent in most of the town.
Independent observers have seen this action as lending credence to the contention that in good old Cameroon, a law can be enacted after passing through statutory process, only for same to become a bone of contention between those who are supposed to ensure that such edicts are respected and society at large.
As it stands, disrespect for constituted authority is even perpetrated by administrative and municipal officials, who, under the yoke of immunity, inflict pains on unwary citizens. And what choice do the people have if they have no say in the matter?
Last November, many inhabitants of the Buea municipality were lamenting and wailing for demolitions to stop to no avail. They were made to understand that there was need for space or a gap of at least five metres from the main road to the first building. That was understood. Now where has that need for space gone to? Ndiwamba Ismael, a teacher held that “The demolitions were done to create space at the road sides but if the council is constructing buildings on this space, then, it is wrong.”
The good book says “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” Of what use is the mouth if it cannot speak out and reprimand malevolence? Of what use are the people if they cannot even have a say in their own welfare?
Recently, the Buea council has been dotting two-storey narrow structures all over the town but the big deal here is the locations of these fresh structures that are tending to transform everyone else in the town into a trader, as if that is the only option left for its teeming inhabitants eking out a living. While land owners and builders have been strictly instructed not to build less than five metres from the road, the same instructors are planting buildings within this frame of distance, some barely a meter away from the main road. Is the law disregarding itself? ‘Dr. Do Good,’ a meat vendor at Clerks Quarters vented out his disappointment with the council; “I am not happy with the constructions done by the Buea Council because they earlier made it clear that constructions should be made not less than five meters away from the roadside but they are the ones who are not obeying the laws. This building opposite us for example is not up to three meters in. It seems they are teaching us to disobey the law.”
In an interview granted to The Rambler, Nsuh Patrick lamented; “I think they did not find it necessary to inform the inhabitants of this innovation. Quite often, the public is forgotten and only remembered at the end and development, we all know, should be geared towards the people. We certainly need environmental trees to be planted because anyone who had known Buea 30 years ago must notice that the amount of rainfall has reduced and the place is getting hotter by the year.”
Nsuh also complained against the congestion that comes with this latest development. “This house has been here probably since before independence around 1959. No one resists development but because this two-storey building is constructed right in front of my apartment, it will reduce the amount of light and ventilation in my house. I hope that for a start, the rents will be favourable. ”
These structures are beautiful quite alright save for the touristic outlook of legendary buildings, relics which of course, have been blocked. More so, ventilation and light have been denied the occupants of the older buildings, thus, altering the quality of their lives. Most of these people were not even informed about the new twist of events.
However, some denizens think it is the best idea purporting that it will give the town an enhanced and advanced look. The Rambler caught up with Matilda, a vendor in Clerks Quarters who expressed her satisfaction. “I did not have any idea about the constructions. I did not know that ruthless demolitions were carried only for constructions to follow but since the constructions are beautiful and presentable, I like the idea.”
The million dollar question now is ‘was space created only for official congestion to crawl in?’ Again, denizens are wondering why the municipal authorities are hell bent on dotting rentable boutiques all over town as if in a bid to transform every one else into a trader. They wonder when the very disturbing issue of lack of potable water means nothing to the mayor. And they wonder what the streets of the town would become within the next year or two if sanity is not introduced on the few tarred roads here.