August 26, 2018 marks exactly one year the great Eke Ukwu Owerri market was demolished by the Rochas Okorocha administration.
Owerri indigenes attached so much cultural affinity to that market which is why after one year it was razed down, it has continued to dominate discussions and debates among the people.
The demolition of the market had left on its trail the death of Somtochukwu Ibenausi, a 10 year old boy allegedly gunned down by a stray bullet.
Widespread reactions across the country also followed the demolition. The Civil Liberties Organization, CLO had captured the mood of the traders and owners of the market when it said in a statement few days after the market was demolished
The CLO had said “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” the CLO stated
One year after the market was brought down, the massive landmass where the market sat lies fallow though buildings constructed by the State Government have continued spring up up. It could not be verified if the structures are stalls as speculations continue to fly that they are school buildings.
The Okorocha administration has consistently stated that the market had to go because it was no longer in line with its urban renewal programme geared towards giving Owerri city a modern look as obtained in other parts of the Federation.
The State Government had embarked on massive expansion of roads in the city which it said will accelerate urban development.
Since the great market went down, the State government cannot say it has completely achieved its intents and purposes for pursuing this line of action. Street trading along the market which the Government has done all it could to checkmate has refused to vanish. Street trading has continued along major roads and streets linking the market despite efforts by agents of the State Government to disperse them.
Douglas Road, the major road linking the market is undergoing renovation which has lasted for several months thus leading to traffic gridlock within the city. The road, adjudged the “artery road” of owerri city remains shut to road users one year after the market was demolished.
Some of the traders whose shops were destroyed during the demolition have relocated elsewhere- mainly to Relief Market located along Egbu Road. This had led to increased economic activities in the market. However majority of traders at the market continue to rue their losses and economic pains after the market was demolished.
Some who went to Naze market where they were told to relocate are still picking up the bits and pieces of their ordeal.
“One year after the market was brought down, the massive landmass where the market sat lies fallow though buildings constructed by the State Government have continued spring up up. It could not be verified if the structures are stalls as speculations continue to fly that they are school buildings”
Some of them who spoke to our reporter said though they are gradually recovering from the huge loss, it’s not been easy for them.
Mr. Greg Ukadike, a trader who claimed he lost his shop and wares when the market was demolished said “It’s not been easy for me because on the day of the demolition of the market, I was unable to evacuate all my goods. I have relocated elsewhere after I borrowed N2.3 million naria to procure a new stall”
The traders are not left out in the agony.
Owerri indigenes still rue the pain of losing their ancestral market. They had instituted a law suit challenging the demolition of the market against the State Government seeking legal redress.
Another suit is also before the Federal High Court, Owerri between the National Human Rights Commision, NHRC and the State Government over killings recorded when the market was demolished.
One year after Eke Ukwu fell, the pains of its demolition still linger like a fresh sore on the owners of the market which only time will heal or not.