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Govt kept us on the streets – Owerri traders

Street traders on Douglas Road, Owerri, capital of Imo State, who have come under heavy clampdown by government agencies have explained why they are still on the streets.
One of them who would not give out his name accused government officials of exploiting traders looking for positions at Alaba, Relief and Egbeada markets being developed by the government newly.
According to him, the officials rent out the stalls at cut throat prices which they cannot afford, and so, they had resorted to displaying their wares on the streets, especially Douglas Road where there is less traffic due to reconstruction work going on there.
The traders still hanging around the demolished Eke Ukwu Owerri had a fierce battle with government agencies at the weekend,  leading to injuries on some of them and loss of their wares.
Our reporter observed that hoodlums cashed in on the ensuing melee to dispossess the traders of their wares and proceeds for the day.
There was tension at the demolished market area as state government agents came to enforce the directives that the traders still hanging around the vicinity should move to the new markets built by the state government.
Shops were closed as government bulldozers excavated the earth close to the entrance of buildings on Douglas Road in the urban renewal scheme being carried out.
“The people have been warned several times to leave the area.  Yet they will not comply” said a member of a special taskforce that came to enforce the order.
Shanties and buildings were not spared by the demolition squad while Douglas  Road was closed to traffic.
Our reporter who went round noticed the heavy presence of policemen on the street.  More fearful, however, was a group of youths who paraded Douglas Road welding cudgels and flogging anyone who dared to stand on their way.
One of the residents, Jude Okeukwu, commended government for halting street trading in the state capital. He, however, said that government could not have  been reconstructing Douglas and Wetheral roads simultaneously, knowing that they were the two major roads in the city.
Okeukwu, a businessman, said that traders who went to their respective villages to continue their business because they could not afford the high rents in the new government markets, also met their village markets demolished by government.
He said that no one knows when the village markets would be ready for occupation and whether it would be within the reach of the poor traders as, according to him, the projects are in the hands of private developers.
“The villagers who own the markets and do business there would no longer have access to them when they are fully developed”, he said.
Another trader who spoke to our reporter appealed to government to finish one project before embarking on another to save the people from untold hardship.
“Rome, they say, was not built in one day and all hands are not equal”, the trader said.

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