By Vincent Osuji
Christ’s Anglican Church Owerri, last Saturday turned to a refugee camp for traders in the Owerri Main Market popularly called Ekeukwu Owerri, following the forceful relocation and demolition of the market by the Imo State Government.
Reports have it that traders who were not fast enough to move their goods before the demolition, took refuge in the church as that was the only place to safeguard their goods and wares.
The unfortunate incident also affected the Christ’s Anglican Church as some part of the lockup stores properly positioned at the front gate of the church were badly destroyed by the Imo state government’s demolition squad.
Speaking to Christian Voice on the issue, an Anglican clergyman and the Archdeacon in charge of the Christ’s Church Archdeaconry, Anglican Diocese of Owerri, Venerable Zion Ngoka, described the demolition as an eyesore, adding that the exercise was unfortunate and callous.
Ven. Ngoka queried why government that was made to protect lives and property of its citizens can be so harsh, despite the yelling of the people for peaceful relocation.
He said, “ Our own take is that if government intends to relocate markets, they should provide an alternative for the people and if there is no alternative, government should continue discussing with the traders and the owners of the markets until they come to an agreement, but for government to do an overnight announcement to begin to destroy their own citizens, destroy their own economy, and own families, is an aberration.
The prelate further gave reasons why the church opened her gate for traders to take refuge. According to him, it was because the church is the carrier of salvation and a refuge for all people no matter their denomination. He said, “When We opened our parsonage, our halls, our schools for them to find accommodation for their goods and wealth, I had a reflection that this is what the church is for, the church is for the community”.
The cleric said the church stores destroyed were not shanties but properly designed and built, “I think the agents of the government who did the dirty job were ungodly and it was an act of illegality”.
We are yet to know government’s intension in carrying out such wicked act on the church which he said was not part of the Ekeukwu Owerri market.
Ven. Ngoka urged the affected traders to continue to call on God especially in time of crises, as He is the only one that can save.
He said, “My prayer for them is that God will help them and let them not lose their faith because I know that God will come in and intervene at the appropriate time”.