•Stop adding hardship to people —Ohanaeze
•Building materials market reopens
By Anayo Okoli, & Emmanuel Iheaka
THE Timber Market at Umuowa, Orlu Local Government Area of Imo State closed on the alleged orders of soldiers is still under lock. This was confirmed yesterday evening.
The market was locked on Tuesday, allegedly, on the orders of soldiers stationed at the area, following alleged gunshots around the market on Monday, the day the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu was billed to appear in court for the continuation of his trial.
It was alleged that unidentified gunmen stormed the timber market on the said day and shot sporadically before they were repelled by the soldiers in the area.
Angered by the incident, the military men were said to have shut down the market, as well as the building materials market situated adjacent.
Marketers who came to resume trading on Tuesday morning were barred from gaining access to the two markets.
The soldiers, however, unlocked the building materials market yesterday morning but not the timber market. Efforts to speak with the Public Relations Officer, 34 Artillery Brigade, Obinze, Imo State, babatunde Zubairu, yesterday, however, proved abortive.
But speaking with Vanguard, a trader at the timber market who gave his name as Michael Ositadimma described the closure of the market for two days as a cruel act against the traders.
Ositadimma queried why the traders should be made to bear the brunt of criminal act by miscreants.
He submitted that the traders have lost millions of naira within the two days the market was locked. The trader appealed to the state government to intervene in the matter and prevail on the soldiers to unlock the market.
“We are just traders, we bear no arms. Our motive of coming here every day is to earn a living. Why should we be made to suffer for the offence other people committed.
“The governor should please intervene, let them open the market for us. Some of us feed our family with what we make on daily basis from the market”, he submitted.
Another trader who pleaded anonymity, insisted that what the soldiers ought to do was to arrest those they said released gunshots in the market.
He stated that the market was empty on the said day the gunmen came, maintaining that he believed the soldiers decided to lock the market because the traders out of solidarity and apprehension stayed away from the market on the day Nnamdi Kanu was to be taken to court.
“Why should a market be locked because of gunshots? I believe they locked it because we decided to sit back at home on Monday. Government should stop treating us as if we have no rights”, he stated.
The chairman of the Building Materials Market, Emmanuel Ibegbulem had told Vanguard on Tuesday morning that he was headed to the state Ministry of Commerce to inform the ministry of the development.
When asked yesterday if his visit to the ministry resulted in the unlocking of the building materials market, he insisted that all he knew was that the market was now open.
He, however, expressed joy that trading has returned to the market.
“I only went to the Ministry of Commerce to notify them that the market was locked. But thank God, they opened it on Wednesday morning. The traders are happy to return to business because no business man enjoys staying at home”, he stated.
In their reaction, Ohanaeze Ndigbo condemned the closure of the markets, saying the action of the soldiers has created more hardship to people that already have a heavy load of hardship.
“By closing the markets, they have blocked the traders’ sources of daily livilihood thereby subjecting their families to hardship.”
According to the National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Alex Chidozie Ogbonnia, if the information at the disposal of the apex Igbo body that the markets were closed because the traders were sympathising with Nnamdi Kanu, then the soldiers got it very wrong.
“What is happening is emotional discharge. If they are not happy with the way Nnamdi Kanu is being treated, what do they want them to do? If that is the basis for the closure of the markets, it is wrong; it is not good. They should consider the implications of closing the economic activities of the many families involved.
“This is so when we are talking of hardship in the country, yet that is creating more. It is a way of victimising the innocent. If they claim gunshot, they should isolate the environment and carry out a thorough investigation rather than punishing the entire traders. They should open the market and allow the traders to look for their daily bread”, Ogbonnia said.
Elite Igbo body, Alaigbo Development Foundation, ADF, scolded the soldiers for their action,saying soldiers have no powers to do some of the things they were doing in Imo State.
“We are not at war. The government should intervene and reopen the Timber market in Orlu for economic activities to resume there. “There is too much hardship in the land. Soldiers are being drafted into civil conflicts because of the collapse of the system.
“Not all social problems can be solved by force of arms. The federal government should begin to reduce tension in the South East by reducing the level of military presence in the region”,ADF said in a statement by its spokesman, Hon. Abia Onyike.