By Jude Atupulazi
Market unions under the umbrella of Onitsha South Shop Owners Traders Association of Nigeria (OSSOTAN), have taken it upon themselves to decongest illegal structures along the streets and roads in their markets to avoid government’s task force intervention.
The decision by the traders came on the heels of the pulling down of a part of a church building owned by a popular pastor in Onitsha by the Anambra State Government task force accompanied by security operatives barely ten days ago, with the state government insisting that the prophet and others would pay for the cost of pulling down their structures.
The President General of OSSOTAN, Chief Eric Uwaoma, disclosed that traders took the step following the directive given to them by Governor Chukwuma Soludo at Prof Dora Akunyili Women’s development Centre, Awka, during their meeting with him, as well as to avoid ugly experiences in the hands of security operatives and men of the government task force.
Mr. Uwaoma, who led leaders of other traders unions, including the chairman, Haruna Street Traders Association Onitsha, Chief Emmanuel Idoko, and Chairman, Bida Road Traders Association, Onitsha, Chief Chima Esionye, succeeded in dismantling all the illegal structures on the roads and water drainages which had defied successive government orders for many years.
Others who participated in the exercise were the Chairman, Sokoto Road Traders Association, Onitsha, Hon Emeka Mbachu and his Secretary, Mazi Uche Izuogu; and Chairman, Kano Street Traders Association, Onitsha, Chief Nonso Ihejiahwa.
The market leaders strictly charged the traders, tricycle operators and articulated vehicle drivers who traded, loaded and off loaded their goods on the roads and streets along their market areas to desist from such or have their wares, vehicles and tricycles impounded.
They also appealed to the leadership of the Onitsha Main Market to direct their workers to desist from intruding into their area, warning that they would no longer tolerate anything that would trigger clashes with any market association.
In their separate interviews during the exercise, the elated market leaders expressed joy for the easy vehicular movements into and out of their markets, saying that for the first time in over twenty years there free flow of traffic through the roads into the markets without obstruction.
Chief Idoko and Esionye said that after their meeting with Governor Soludo in Awka, they had seen the need for the dismantling of illegal structures and decongestion of the roads, just as they formed a joint task force with the name, ”Sokoto Road, Haruna, Bida and Kano Street Traders Association Joint Task Force on Decongestion of Roads”.
Leaders of the taskforce, namely, Obinna Ozochukwu; Ebuka Abiakwam; Nnamdi Ndukwe from Haruna Street, Sokoto Road and Bida Road respectively, promised to ensure that the road and streets flowed freely on daily basis, warning traders and tricycle operators to desist from trading and loading along the roads and streets.
The traders however appealed to Governor Soludo to save the collapsing Nwangele Bridge linking the markets with the popular Onitsha Main Market and Niger Bridge through which customers outside the South-East accessed their markets, warning that if the bridge should collapse, government and traders will lose huge amounts in revenue.