Moving Eke-Ukwu Owere market, a traditional landmark of the Owerri people, may not be a good idea and may spark off another mayhem on the scale of the Otokoto riots of 1996.
This is the warning of Nde Owere whose elders are shaking their heads and snapping their fingers over the planned relocation of the market outside their Owerri Municipal Council.
In a press release, the elders said Government should avoid a repeat of the Otokoto saga. They said there was no consultation with the Elders of Owerri Municipal or major stakeholders in the municipality before Government embarked on what they said would definitely affect the wellbeing of the indigenes of Owerri town.
“The elders have a duty to let the Government of Imo state know that its current policies of moving Eke- Ukwu Owere market and demolition of structures in old Owerri town are not at all acceptable to the indigenes of Owerri Municipal. We must avoid a situation for Otokoto saga to repeat itself in Owerri Town. We the elders remember that event very well and pray against a repeat. It will do Imo State Government no good if Owerri town, the capital of Imo State should become a theatre of warfare and bloodshed,” the elders said in a press release signed by representatives of Umuororonjo, Umu-Onyeche, Umu-Ihugba Umuodu and Umuoyima autonomous communities in Owerri Municipal.
The elders also made their own suggestions on how to ease traffic along Douglas Road, the main reason for which Government wants to remove the market.
“In our view, free flow of traffic along Douglas Road will easily be achieved as follows: relocate all street traders along Douglas road from Mbaise road junction to Ama-JK roundabout. Relocate all street traders from Chikwere Street junction at School road to Douglas road. Relocate all street traders from Chikwere Street junction at Christ Church road through Christ Church gate to School road. Relocate all street traders along Ekeonunwa street to Douglas road.”
The elders also called for expansion of the Relief Market along Egbu-Owerri Road to accommodate more people.
“The Owerri Municipal Council should expand the relief market and other urban markets to accommodate these displaced street traders and there will be undisturbed flow of traffic along Douglas Road. There is no need at all to remove the market and embark on demolitions in Owerri Town.”
News reports published in an Owerri-based newspaper said the relocation of Owerri Market to Egbeada in Mbaitoli LGA was part of a plan to make room for one of Nigeria’s richest men to purchase the land and build a mega Plaza.
“A source close to the government disclosed that the arrangement and documentation on the proposed plans have been perfected for full implementation,” the publication said.
Owere Nchi Ise women recently staged a protest against the relocation. The protest was supported by the interim president of Owerri Communities Assembly, Chief Christian Oweaya Anukam.
However Government is saying that the relocation will clean up the area and ease the perennial traffic congestion along Douglas Road, but, Owerri people are saying there are other ways to do that.