By Vincent Ujumadu
AWKA—HUNDREDS of pupils of Beth-Roots Model Schools, Victory Estate, Onitsha, a private institution, yesterday, took to the streets to protest the building of a multi –million naira market and a shopping mall near their school, arguing that converting the residential and educational area into a commercial centre would endanger their lives.
Their action elicited sympathy from residents of the estate, who informed Vanguard that there was no provision for the building of markets in the area in the original plan of the estate located at the 3-3 area of Onitsha.
Carrying placards which read, “ Respect our right to education, “Our future is worth more than money, “I love school, please keep me safe, and “Live and Let live”, the pupils called on Governor Willie Obiano to intervene in the matter by prevailing on those behind the approval and construction of the market, to demolish them in the interest of the pupils.
They said that some of them had been involved in accidents following the activities of commercial vehicle drivers bringing building materials and offloading them near their school, adding that allowing the existence of the market in the area would endanger their lives and hinder their movement in and out of the school premises.
A petition which the school authority sent to Governor Obiano read: “They want to expose us to imminent danger by siting this market here. How can we cope with the volume of traffic that will be on this road if this market is allowed to exist here?
“This area is already built up with shops which were not on the original plan for the estate. Our governor, Chief Willie Obiano should save us from this calamity. All of us must not be traders.
“ Our founding fathers like Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chinua Achebe, Prof Kenneth Dike, Prof Chike Obi and so on were not traders. Why are they foisting this trader mentality on all us now?”
Counsel for the school, Mr. Valentine Utulu, had also petitioned the state governor, asking him to stop the distortion of the master plan of the area by traders and such interest groups.
The lawyer’s petition entitled: “Protest against the distortion of the master plan of Victory Estate, Odoagba/Otakpo Phase two, 3-3,Onitsha, read in part: “There is no approval for a market in that vicinity. The area is designated as a residential area, with schools and limited commercial activity.
“There is no provision made in the master plan to accommodate the huge traffic of vehicles the proposed market will attract and it will greatly and adversely affect the quality of life of residents, pupils and those merely driving through.’’