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May 25, 2018

Tears, agony in Owerri again

- Commuters scrambling to enter one of the few cars available at Owerri Metropolis Thursday - (Inset) Stranded passengers along a major road in Owerri (Pix: innonews.com)
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Pain and misery can only capture the mood in Owerri the Imo state Capital, and No words can better describe the agonizing business environment, since the past two weeks, than fear, anxiety and harassment. This follows government’s insistence on enforcement of its order on relocation of businesses from major roads close to demolished Ekeukwu market to designated markets in satellite towns. The situation has been worsened by the ban of certain classes of commercial vehicles from entering the metropolis.

While the business community and artisans complain that the markets they are directed to relocate to have not been completed and lack basic amenities, government on its part insists that the deadline given to them had long expired and that they must stop operating on major roads in the state capital to enable government accomplish its urban renewal programme. Such roads include: Douglas, Wetheral, Mbaise, Assumpta Avenue etc.

Consequently, for the past two weeks, government taskforces are seen all over the state capital, chasing and impounding on those vehicles banned from entering the city and unleashing unprecedented brutality on their drivers. Huge concrete roadblocks are found at Ama JK and Ama Awusa to prevent vehicles from plying Douglas Road. Equally, fierce looking members of taskforces and the police, march along these major roads armed with dangerous weapons pouncing on any shop owner still found doing business. There touts would jump into moving vehicles, seize the steering or keys of any driver whose vehicle is not authorized to enter the municipal.

 

-Commuters scrambling to enter one of the few cars available at Owerri Metropolis Thursday -	(Inset) Stranded passengers along a major road in Owerri (Pix: innonews.com)

– Commuters scrambling to enter one of the few cars available at Owerri Metropolis Thursday
– (Inset) Stranded passengers along a major road in Owerri (Pix: innonews.com)

Commuters are seen in hundreds trekking long distances as nobody now knows where to board the right vehicle to his destination. Oftentimes, the passengers of contravened vehicles are ordered to come down, while the vehicle and driver are whisked off to the taskforce depot.

For this reason, transport fares have sky-rocketed, while the costs of other goods and services have doubled. For instance; it now costs N200 to travel from Hardel Junction in Orji to Ama JK instead of N100, because the commuter would board two different vehicles instead of one for that same distance. The same is the case with a passenger travelling from Ama JK to the Coca Cola Junction Onitsha Road, who now pays N200 instead of N100 because he must first change vehicle at the Control Post before proceeding to Coca Cola Junction.

Travelers especially students, and civil servants have been going through hell to access their destinations. Many car owners stayed off the road to avoid falling victim to the special Task Force constituted by the state government to nab taxi and bus operators who fail to paint their cabs with approved colours by the state Government.

The few taxi operators who painted their vehicles with the approved colours said they had to raise their fares because of the high cost of the painting.

Some of the victims who have been again kicked from their shops, lamented that after the demolition of Ekeukwu Owere market and the loss of shops there, some of them borrowed money to rent shops along some of these streets and now government has again barred them from selling and doing business in these houses.

Reacting to the development, a governorship aspirant in the state, Barr. Uche Onyeaguocha alleged that the primary intension of Imo State Governor is to destroy the source of livelihood of the people, under the guise of urban renewal.

He said in a Press Release that Imo has been turned into a jungle where rascality and use of brutal force have become the grand norm, stressing that the present administration whose constitutional mandate is to protect life and property of its citizens, has “unfortunately, declared war on the people.”

“It is only a clueless government, like this present administration, that does not know that, all over the world, inner-city roads are not meant to be too wide.”
In his own reaction, another gubernatorial aspirant, Mr. Okey Ezeh condemned what he described as wanton harassment of Owerri residents.

Mr. Ezeh insisted that nothing justifies such attack on private entrepreneurship in Owerri, lamenting that Imo people are currently grappling with the worst indices of socio-economic prosperity in the history of the state.
“It is now clear that with the governor has an alternative reality of what the common good should represent or that he takes pleasure in the tears and sorrows of our people,” Mr. Ezeh said.

Defending Government’s action, the Deputy Chief of Staff (Operations), Mr. Kingsley Uju, said government had earlier issued the traders a three-month notice to relocate to Egbeada (Ubommiri), where it has established a new market; but, the traders refused to quit Douglas Road, Mbaise Road, Nworie Industrial Lane and Ama Hausa areas.
Also, the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Okorocha, Sam Onwuemeodo, said those attacking the exercise did not want any change.

“They are enemies of the state. They have no good intention. They are allergic to positive change.
“They want the state to remain as it was when it was created in 1976. But, Governor Okorocha is repositioning the state for posterity and we thank God for that.”

 


 

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