A flurry of reaction has trailed the demolition of the ancient Eke Ukwu Owere Market by the Imo State government on Saturday, August 26, 2017.
Among those that reacted include Rights group, the Civil Liberties Organization, the United Labour Congress and some stalwarts of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
The CLO statement reads
“The Civil Liberties Organization (CLO) hereby condemn the invasion and demolition of Ekeukwu Owerre Market by the Imo State Government, despite a subsisting order of court restraining the Governor and his agents from demolishing the said market. This act of executive lawlessness should out rightly be condemned by all who believe in democracy and rule of law. It is disheartening to note that the Imo State Government is now reputed as having no respect for orders of court.
“The CLO condemn the use of soldiers by the Imo State Government in effecting the demolition exercise. This is unwarranted and illegal. This is no basis for the use of soldiers. By our constitution, our soldiers are meant to protect the country from external aggression. They are not internal security duties except in clear special circumstances. The demolition of Ekeukwu Owerre is not does not require the presence of soldiers. There is no gainsaying that the Police Force and Civil Defence Corp are both well equipped to provide security during the demolition exercise. It is therefore necessary that the use of soldiers in the demolition exercise should be investigated.
“The demolition of the Ekeukwu market is a brazen act of impunity by the Imo State Government and a clear showcase of utter disdain to the wishes of the people who rejected the planned demolition and had called for restraint on the part of the Government. The Ekeukwu Owerre market is not just a thriving economic centre but also part of the remaining cultural heritage of the Owerri people. So, the issue touches on the cultural right of the people.
“It is obvious that the destruction of the market will badly affect the economy of Imo State. It will increase the population of the unemployed in the State which will impact on the poverty situation in the State. More families will start missing food on their tables. The obvious consequences of the demolition include likely increase in socio-economic crimes in the city and its environ as many people who, daily, depended on the market for their livelihoods have now been displaced without any functional or visible alternative to move into and continue their lawful businesses.
From reports, the demolition exercise did not only witness destruction of properties worth Hundreds of Million of Naira but also loss of lives. This has led to increased insecurity in the city with its attendant militarization. It is important that those responsible for the killings of the three innocent citizens are fished out and brought to law. The families of those killed should be adequately compensated by the Imo State Government.
“In view of the large scale opposition to the destruction of the market, the CLO hereby call on the Imo State Government to halt further demolition and develop a strategy of engaging a cross strata of the stakeholders on the subject matter for healing and finding sustainable and peaceful pathway to the issue.
“The CLO equally urge the public not to do anything that will escalate the situation or change the narrative.
Uche Wisdom Durueke Esq
ULC statement titled “The Continued Militarisation of Governance In Nigeria, Rochas Becomes Blood Thirsty” and signed by its national president, Jeo Ajaero reads:
“We woke up early this morning to the news of the demolition of a popular market in Owerri the Imo state capital called Ekeukwu market by agents of the State Government allegedly supported by the Army, the Police and other armed groups both legal and illegal. As at the time of this writing, many lives have been lost and scores lying in the Hospital seriously injured while yet many more lost properties running into billions of Naira.
“We condemn this as barbaric, unconscionable and out of sync with the dictates of modern societies that thrive on strict adherence to the Rule of Law and natural justice. This once again is a national eyesore that leaves a deep gash on our collective conscience as a people and as a country.
“Our members in Imo having followed this matter through and investigations from the Headquarters of the ULC suggests that this matter is understandably in the Courts pending adjudication and Rochas has rather chosen to circumvent this lawful process which the citizenry have subjected themselves. We are deeply worried that a State Government will allow itself to be dragged down this lane of infamy to unleash mayhem on its own people despite being illegal and amoral. We have unfortunately seen an increasing lawlessness and impunity not perpetrated by criminals in the society but by those who wield the instrument of Power scattered all over the nation.
“Every day when we wake up in Nigeria, we are regaled with one sad tale or another of the dubious use of the Military to destroy the lives of Nigerians by those who are in position of authority despite the fact that the military are needed somewhere else very urgent in the North East to defeat the Boko Haram insurgency including in other parts of the country to curb the murderous Fulani Herdsmen uprisings and others
“We are aghast at the continued militarisation of Governance processes and the deployment of high-handed and violence methods in attempting to settle disputes arising out of Government decisions that the people considers wrong – headed or ill-advised. Any Governor that cannot patiently subject himself to the dictates of the Law loses the right to continue in Office. He becomes a threat to democracy and democratic practices as he places himself above the Law through which he in the first place assumed office.
“Through such actions, the affected public official undermines the basis of his government destroying the foundation of his office making it inchoate with the strictures of the Law thus creating a situation where he is no longer worthy of that office.
“ULC does not see any reason no matter how well thought – out for Rochas to embark on self-help and lawlessness in a matter that is before courts. He has not only shown disdain for the Courts but has also shown deep contempt for the people of the state and indeed the whole Nigeria. He is following a trend that we are scared stiff about in Nigeria. The emergence of small despotic gods in our hallowed halls of governance who have decided on their own to play with the lives of their citizenry without recourse to the rights and privileges of the people and to good conscience. A people in Power who believes that they are above all and everything are a danger to democracy and social stability.
“We therefore are forced to call for the immediate resignation of Rochas Okorocha on the basis of this perfidy and the threat he has become not only to his own people but also to Nigerians knowing fully that if he continues contributing to the destruction of our nation, Nigerian workers who we represent will be the first casualties. He has made his continued occupation of that exalted office tenuous and horrendous.
“It is wrong for the military to once again allow itself to be used by wicked and self-seeking politicians to mow down innocent lives that they were constitutionally sworn to protect and who are their employers and pay their salaries no matter what the situation is. It is also wrong for the Governor to have to bring in the military into a civil matter that does not in any way require the use of extreme force as the case has clearly demonstrated. Institutions of state can only maintain their integrity when they subject themselves to the rules setting them up. It is this integrity that guarantees their sustainability which can only obtained by continuously being allied with the people. When the military authorities therefore decide to be used, they not only whittle down the effectiveness of that institution they also undermine its capability and capacity to continue playing its role as the ultimate defender of the citizenry.
“ULC demands the immediate investigation of the circumstances under which the killings and maiming of innocent life was carried out in a peaceful time. We demand that the officers involved in this act be prosecuted by the courts and if found culpable incarcerated. This action has totally undermined the office of the GOC commanding the 36th military Battalion at Obinze whose officers may have constantly been used against the people. We therefore call for his immediate removal and prosecution.
“We want to remind Nigerians that just last Tuesday we alerted then on the increasing militarisation of the nation’s governance processes and cried out on the dangers to lives and properties which this has become. This is another manifestation of this evil by the ruling elite. We call on all reasonable men of goodwill to immediately stand against this evil by condemning it in its totality to avoid being tarnished by the action of this Governor who has shown no respect for the people he claims to lead.
“All patriots must come together to build a network of morality and justice against this evil genie that seems to be stepping out of the bottle now before it shows up somewhere else with the attendant loses of lives and properties in its trail. It is time to stop the evil and impunity which Rochas has come to represent and it will only take not just responsible Imo citizens to condemn this action totally but also for all men of goodwill to gather themselves together so that Nigeria will be protecting from this rampaging bulls.
“Finally, we call on the President of the federal republic and the national Assembly to quickly call the military to order. We suggest that machineries are set in motion to audit the live operations of the military throughout the country especially in our workplaces and as it rears its head in Public to avoid this increasing fear that is being generated in the Land. Nigerians have not become this afraid in a very long time.
“It is time for all patriots to come together to stop our spiral into anarchy as a nation!
Comrade Joe Ajaero
House of Reps member, Hon. Ezenwa Onyewuchi wrote in a statement “
I, Hon. Ezenwa Onyewuchi, Member representing Owerri Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives condemn in the strongest terms the gestapo-like operation and demolition of Owerri ancestral market, The Eke-Ukwu Owerri, today, leading to the loss of innocent lives.
This action by Governor Rochas Okorocha without an alternative accommodation and compensation in the face of current economic difficulties is most inhuman and anti people.
This demolition in spite of a subsisting court order to say the least is a provocative affront on the peace loving people of Owerri, which will be resisted using all lawful means available.
While calling on our people to remain peaceful and law abiding, I call on the President and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces President Muhammadu Buhari to call Governor Okorocha to order. I also call on
Governor Rochas Okorocha to halt the demolition, pay compensation to owners of properties already destroyed and apologise to Owerri People.
Let me also convey my heartfelt condolences to the families that have lost their loved ones in this mindless exercise and assure them that they will get justice.
Thank you and may God bless us all.
Hon. Ezenwa Onyewuchi
Senator Representing Imo East Senatorial Zone, Senator Sameul Anyanwu wrote in a statement made available to this online news website
“Senator Samdaddy Anyanwu has condemned in strong terms the alleged use of Military and armed thugs on traders and indigenes of Owerri in carrying out the demolition of Ekeukwu Owerri market.
“Senator Anyanwu made his feelings known while speaking on the demolition of the market. He expressed deep sadness at what he called a regrettable incident while stating that the demolition is not only ill timed but could have been handled in a more people friendly manner.
“Senator Anyanwu who represents Owerri Senatorial Zone in the Senate, argued that demolishing the market without proper relocation plans and using military men and armed thugs to achieve the demolition is not only despicable but is anti masses.
“He recalled that there is still a subsisting court judgement on the relocation of the market and wondered why the State could ignore such judgement.
“The lawmaker emphasized that nobody is actually against the urban renewal program of the State Government but stated that the program should have a human face especially in this harsh economic period when most families are struggling to put food on their people.
“He regretted the adverse effects the demolition will cause to affected traders who are expected to pay their children school fees in no time, as well as shop owners whose source of livelihood have been destroyed without due compensation.
“Senator Anyanwu who is the Senate Committee Chairman on Ethics, Privileges and Petitions questioned the wisdom in demolishing the market when the new one is not yet ready and the conditions for the allocation of the new shops not clearly sorted out.
“He urged the State Government to always employ dialogue in dealing with her citizens and refrain from actions that will jeopardize her relationship with the people, and to also set up a Committee made up of Shop owners and traders to ensure easy allocation of shops and seamless relocation to the new site.
“Senator Samdaddy Anyanwu on behalf of his family and the people of Owerri Zone condoles with the families that lost their loved ones while calling on the State Government to immediately institute a panel of inquiry into the circumstances that led to the death of the deceased persons in order to determine people who are culpable.