By Nwabueze Okonkwo
ONITSHA—Female traders in Onitsha, Anambra state, yesterday, continued their protest over the closure of their market at Ezinwanne shopping mall along Silas Works Road in the Fegge area of Onitsha, by the state’s environmental task force (a.k.a Ocha Brigade).
The women who commenced their protest on Monday when they came into the market for their normal business transaction and discovered to their chagrin that all the vehicles that brought fruits and vegetables into the market for sale were diverted to Atani road, threatened to relocate their businesses to the neighbouring Asaba, Delta State if Governor Willie Obiano did not call Ocha Brigade to order and revert the decision to eject them from the market.
During yesterday’s continued protest, the women who were mainly fruits and vegetable sellers, marched to the Onitsha South Local Government Secretariat in Fegge to register their grievances from where they marched to the premises of Anambra State Broadcasting Corporation, ABS and some other public places.
The protesters, carried placards with inscriptions as “Obiano, leave us alone, we voted for you and you now want to pay us back by chasing us out of our business premises;” “We cannot move to government designated market at Atani Road because our lives are at risk due to armed robbers and rapists in the area;” “Obiano, call your task force to order or else we will relocate to Asaba if Anambra State our own state rejects us,” among others, chanted abusive words against the state government, security men and the task force.
Reacting to the development, Chairman of the Corn Dealers Association, Mr. Michael Mkpume said that government has been on their neck for some time now, after they ejected and shut their market at Coca-Cola market along the Upper Iweka/Bridge-head end of the Onitsha-Awka expressway before the owner of the shopping mall accepted harbour them at the present premises which belongs to the Plaza owner and not the government, only for the same government to turn round to chase them out of the plaza area.
Appealing to Governor Obiano to intervene and settle the matter before it will degenerate to another thing, another woman trader, Mrs. Chinyere Onuekwusi lamented the damages and loses already incurred by the traders since Monday when the protest started, adding that all their perishable goods have been destroyed while some traders lost their money.
However, the Director-General of Environmental Task force (Ocha Brigade) Chief Kenneth Okonkwo who reacted to the matter, told newsmen that the decision of the government on the relocation of the traders to the government market at Atani road was irreversible due to environmental degradation and traffic congestion being constituted by the traders in the area.