BY JEROME UNANKA#
There is high rate of complains of economic hardship in Owerri, Imo State a factor that has been traced to the demolition of the Eke Ukwu Owerri market.
The Imo State government had in August brought down the market in line with its urban renewal programme.The market demolition had generated uproar across the state and beyond.
The chilly aspect of the demolition was the death of 10 year old Somtochukwu Ibeanusi who was gunned by security forces in the process.
Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State had insisted that his decision to bring down the market was with good intentions that would aid the development of the city.
But the aftermath of the market demolition have led to dire consequences with majority of Owerri residents and traders lamenting that the market was the economic livewire of Owerri metropolis and has snowballed into dire economic woes for the citizens.
Some of them who spoke to our reporter said the market was the economic hub of Owerri and with its demolition; hard times now await the people.
Mrs Comfort Emenalo, a trader at the demolished market said “ The hardship in the town has increased.
Owerri has no economy aside the market. Now that the market has gone down, there is little or less economic activities in the city. There are more complains by the people of hardship now than before when the market was there”
Mr. Samuel Iwuoha,another trader at the Market who claimed that he lost three stalls at Ekeukwu said “Naturally when such a big market is demolished, there are economic consequences”
“This is the reason such market of huge economic importance are not demolished. They are re- packaged and upgraded if they no longer conform to standards. That market was making deals worth over 150 million naria per day. That shows there was an economy in Owerri. It filled the absence of a private sector economy in the State. Now it is no more, you can see that things are no longer the same in Owerri. At a time, there is recession in the country, it was wrong to pull down the market that was feeding more than 1 million people per day in the State and stimulating economic activities”
“People are complaining more of hardship in the city.This is because there is no trading, no buying and selling which is the hub of economic activity in any given area” he said
Aside the monetary losses incurred by the traders which run into millions of naria, it was observed that most victims are complaining that no compensation has come forth from the State governemt after the market was demolished.
Chief Greg Uwadike, a trader who also claimed he lost two stalls at Eke Ukwu Owerri market said “ There is no compensation from the State government for destroying our source of livelihood. This is why some of us are finding it difficult to cope in re- settling down elsewhere. Though I have relocated my wares to Relief market, I had to borrow N2.3 million naria to procure a new stall. I had to get new goods because I was unable to evacuate them before the government bulldozers came.
“Now I have to do all I can to recover this money and pay those I borrowed to rent this shop” he said
He said Owerri will not recover from the huge shock of the demolition of the market because the economy of the city revolved around the market.
“That market put so many food on the table of many families. My neighbour who had a drug store was unable to pay his children’s school fees because the market was demolished a month to when schools were about to re-open. The economic shock from the demolition of the market was devastating, it will take time for it to recover ” he said.
Mr. Christian Osuji, a businessman told this newspaper that the level of suffering in the city has increased in the State since Eke Ukwu Owerri was demolished.
” I wonder how citizens in the State now survive with less than a month to Christmas. Workers salaries are being slashed by 30%, Pensioners are complaining of non payment, now the business sector which revolves around the market is no more. There are no private companies to stimulate economic activities and absord thousands of graduate unemployed youths. It is a very difficult situation and this will bounce on negatively on the people” he said.
Some Owerri youths who spoke on this matter still rue on the loss of the market demolition.
Chibueze Emerole, who claimed to be a youth leader from Umuororonjo community said he fed his entire family from the market before it was demolished.
” I m a graduate but I have not been gainfully employed in the last 2 Years I left the Imo State University. I fed my family from the proceeds of the toll collection to support my wife’s tailor business. Now I cannot do much again.I know collecting toll was bad, that was my only option to survive”he said
The menace of toll collection by some Owerri youths at the market was one of the reasons the Okorocha government demolished the market.
Top officials of the State government had this newspaper that the Eke Ukwu market before it was demolished was a haven for criminality, drug peddling and other social vices.
Governor Rochas Okorocha had also said that the idea of relocating the market was part of his administration’s plan to upgrade the urban status of Owerri.
Key officials of his government have been silent on the economic implications of the demolition rather so much emphasis has been placed on the social vices and other political considerations for its demolition.
Those who support the government posture on the market argue that there is no pain without gain and the long term benefit for the people.
“Abuja city at one time underwent demolition.Today, that city is one of the finest in Africa.We in Imo State must learn to endure some pain for there to be gain” Jeff Okechukwu, Staff of Imo ENTRACO.