By Chukwudi Ikpe
For about three months now business activities have been paralysed on the ever busy Douglas Road in Owerri, the Imo State capital, following the commencement of the urban renewal progamme of the state government on the road.
Businessmen and women whose offices and shops are located along the said road as well as commercial banks and even commercial vehicle operators who operate along Douglas Road have continued to lament and count their loses.
Christian Voice checks revealed that some of the shops have closed down indefinitely due to low patronage.
Some of the businessmen and women who spoke to us appealed to the state government to come to their rescue.
A group of automobile tyre dealers who spoke to us said that their businesses have taken a big plunge.
According to them, they used to be patronised by vehicles that operate along Douglas Road, but since the closure of the entrances to the road patronage has lowered drastically.
They explained that the difficult situation has forced some of them out of business.
One of them who simply identified himself as Emeka said the situation has affected his family negatively as he can no longer meet up with his children’s school fees as well as their upkeep.
“We are dying slowly; we need Owelle’s urgent intervention on our matter,” he said.
Another business operator who deals on mobile telephone accessories decried the ‘heartless’ manner with which the project is being carried out. The owner of a phones and accessories outfit near Mbaise Road junction said the situation is so painful, stressing that sometimes you don’t sell anything throughout the week.
Also speaking, a commercial bus driver popularly known as Kendo lamented that business has gone down due to the closure of Douglas Road.
He called on the state government to open one lane of the road so that business can thrive.
The bus driver said that the government should have just repaired the damaged spots instead of closing up the major road of the city in the name of road expansion.
Two commercial bank staff who would not like their names mentioned said that the situation on Douglas Road where their office is located also affects them. They said that they either park their cars far away and trek to their office or leave their cars at home and wait endlessly for a commercial vehicle which still stops them far from office.
Similarly, another business woman whose outfit is located along Douglas Road called on the state government to always make necessary plans before embarking on projects such as the urban renewal programme in order to avoid its negative effects on the masses.
Speaking to Christian Voice on the issue, she explained that the project could be carried out bit by bit, allowing businesses to continue to run instead of blocking the road and shutting down shops.
The businesswoman who said she cited her business outfit strategically at Douglas Road because of its high traffic and viability, regretted that the urban renewal progamme has negatively affected the business that she is almost heartbroken.
She condemned the creation of wide ditches in front of shops/offices; slow pace of work and the blocking of road entrances which has forced them out of business.
The business tycoon blasted the Imo government for shutting down Douglas Road, stressing that it will affect its Internally Generated Revenue ( IGR) which will in turn affect the economy of the state.
She also raised an alarm that the situation may increase the rate of unemployment, crime, prostitution and other social vices among the frustrated and displaced youths and traders.
The business woman advised the government not to start new road projects but to try and finish on-going ones before the end of the administration.
She, however, commended the government for creating some new access roads but decried the poor state of major junctions, roundabouts and entry points to the city.
She appealed to the state government to carry out the urban renewal programme with kindness considering its implications to the poor masses.