The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Imo led by Sir Nnamdi Richard Anyaehie has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to declare a state of emergency in the state due to “excesses” of Governor Rochas Okorocha.In a statement by the publicity secretary of the party, Chief Enyinna Onuegbu, PDP expressed frustration that the entire Imo landscape and inhabitants have been in mourning mood since the night of Friday 25th August 2017 when the Governor rolled out bulldozers to demolish the popular Owerri Main Market, the Hausa Quarters, and other private properties along Douglas Road Owerri.
PDP said: “It has been the saddest three days in the history of Imo State only comparable to the genocide of the Civil War days. Indeed all Christian denominations, in all places of worship last Sunday had a common sermon and prayer point for the Almighty God to deliver Imo State from the evil clutches and despoliation by a Governor who claims a mandate freely given by majority of the people he has now turned round to punish like Pharaoh did to the children of Israel. We know their prayers shall overcome Okorocha’s wickedness.
“The Peoples Democratic Party, Imo State Chapter wishes to place on record that the Governor of Imo State had no reason whatsoever to visit the inhabitants of Owerri Capital City with this brazen demolition of the Owerri Main Market and the Hausa Quarters in the thick of the rainy season and the dead of the night.
“The claim by the State Government of having given ample notice and having an alternative site (a naturally water logged ditch at Ohii in Mbaitoli L.G.A) is sheer falsehood. This is because the Owerri Main Market cannot justifiably be relocated to a Local Government that is not within the Owerri Capital Territory nor in Owerri Federal Constituency. The residential areas and indigenous population in Owerri cannot be relocated to the place where Okorocha claims to be a new site.
“We also know that the uncompleted alternative site is already allocated to a private property development company and third parties who are expecting the forceful eviction of traders in the Main Market by Okorocha to provide them with tenants for their uncompleted and water logged markets stalls at Ohii; A case of robbing Peter to pay Paul”.
“It must be recalled that the ordinary market value of one stall in Owerri Main Market is above N5million and for a state government to destroy a market of over 3,000 lock up stores is the height of callousness and poor sense of basic economics.
“In Imo State, while it is unarguable that there is a dearth of functional industries and employment generating private sector investments, we have a market economy sustained by our agricultural produce and from history the Owerri Main Market has been the final destination of the collective produce of Imo State farmers.
“It is not proper to diminish the vastness and economic potentials of the Owerri Main Market by describing it as indigenes market called Eke-Ukwu Owerri. This is because, even the previous State Administrations and the Owerri Municipal Council had built several lock-up stalls with private sector participation and allocated to members of the public over the years.
‘The majority of these stalls do not belong to indigenes of Owerri. These stalls had also been serially numbered and had registered title. Several owners had used their title deeds as collateral for securing bank facilities in pursuit of improving the capacity or value of their businesses. Who will pay the loans secured with the title documents of properties in the Owerri Main Market?
“It is also clear that the administration of Okorocha does not know that by virtue of the provision of Fourth Schedule, Section 1, sub-section (e) to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended); that the establishment, maintenance, and regulation of Markets is within the exclusive competence of Local Governments.
“The state administration under Okorocha’s tenure has illegally usurped this function of the Owerri Municipal Council and brought unquantifiable losses on owners of Stalls in the Owerri Main Market. The itinerant traders and their patrons who use the environs of the market have been forced into an unmitigated refugee status.”
“We have it on good authority that the plan of Okorocha is to recover the prime location of the Owerri Main Market and allocate same (as is his practice) to a Private Limited Liability Company to develop into a Shopping Complex. Like every Imo resident knows, such proposed developer company must have some link with family and friends of our insatiable leaders of today.
“It must also be recalled that as far back as a year ago, a High Court had granted orders of injunction against any demolition and removal of the market. The said matter is still pending in Court. The Okorocha Administration true to its character of disregarding the rule of law and due process chose to wait for the annual vacation of the High Courts in Imo State this August in order to flout the extant court orders.
“In addition to the malicious destruction of the Owerri Main Market is the national security risk occasioned by the insensitive destruction of the popular Hausa Quarters along Douglas Road Owerri. This is against the backdrop that tendencies inimical to the unity of Nigeria exemplified in the agitations for breakup of Nigeria has been on the rise since the All Progressives Congress (APC) took over the reins of leadership at the National level.
“We therefore find the destruction of residential and business premises at Hausa Quarters along Douglas Road Owerri a deliberate effort to evoke separatist agitations and cause a war between the otherwise hospitable Imo State indigenes and our northern brethren who had been long resident in Owerri peacefully many years before Okorocha returned from elsewhere to become Governor of Imo State.
“That a man who prides himself as the Chairman of APC Governors Forum could be this insensitive to national security issues shows indeed the quality of leadership evident in that political party. It may be worthwhile for the Presidency to really investigate the intention of Okorocha by this calamity he has wrought on the psyche of Imo State residents likely to engender an attack on Imo indigenes resident in the Northern parts of Nigeria. The leadership of APC must indeed be wondering whose interest Okorocha is serving in Imo State.
“The State Governments apologists have presently embarked on an organized media campaign founded on the falsehood that nobody died as a result of the Gestapo destruction of Owerri Main Market. The truth must prevail, which is that lives were lost and several were wounded by gun shots with many admitted at the Federal Medical Centre Owerri. There is also the likelihood that many more Imo residents will die from shock, high blood pressure and maybe suicides in the aftermath of this genocide against our people.
“On the claim that the Owerri Main Market environs had become a hideout for suspected criminals, Okorocha and his apologists need to be reminded that maintenance of law and investigation of crime is the statutory work of the Nigerian Police Force (which has a Police Station within the market) and other security agencies. It is not the work of Okorocha administration to usurp the functions of the security agencies.
“It is also laughable that the same Okorocha administration that has consistently used the services of hoodlums and miscreants as revenue agents to terrorize Imo State residents is now claiming that Owerri Main Market had been a hideout of criminals.
“The Governor needs to tell Nigerians why over 500 youths suspected to be from Ohaji/Egbema L.G.A (the hotbed of cultism) where his Deputy Chief of Staff (Operations) Mr. Kingsley Uju and the head of Imo Entraco (in charge of demolitions in Owerri) Mr. Jeff Nwoha hail from, were brought into Owerri in government vehicles to lead the onslaught against the market and traders while being given cover by soldiers said to have been procured from outside Imo State.