The issuance of a fresh directive by the Anambra State Government, ordering the return of markets to their original sites, has been attributed to a clash between Awka Youths and a known market leader, name withheld.
A release by the State Government had on Monday, 13th April, stated that from Tuesday, 14th April, food markets would operate at new places to enhance the social distancing protocol in order to beat Covid-19.
But the State Commissioner for Information, Mr C Don Adinuba, who spoke to Fides in a telephone interview, said the decision had been overturned.
He said, ‘Food sellers will now relocate to their original markets as against the previous directive. This is because the spaces where the markets were relocated do not allow for social distancing protocol, so the food sellers will now relocate to their original markets which will only hold three times a week; Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It’s just a little policy adjustment.’
But Fides investigation found that the decision to relocate food markets, especially in Awka, to their original places, was because some Awka youths resorted to collecting N5, 000 each from food trader, a situation that traders baulked at.
A source alleged that an influential market leader in the state took advantage of the resistance of the traders to insist on them (traders) returning to Eke Awka Market, which is managed by him, and from where he allegedly makes good money; selling tickets to traders, even within the period of the lockdown.
A trader, Mrs Uchechi Enuma, who spoke to Fides at the Awka Stadium venue where they were previously relocated, said the relocation was a huge loss to them.
‘Some of us paid N5, 000 to Awka youths to get spaces at the stadium, but now that we are going back to our market, who do we collect our money from?
‘We only did business here today (Tuesday), and from Wednesday, we are expected to return to Eke Awka, and there, we will be subjected to various tickets by the management of the market, after we have already spent N5, 000 in appeasing Awka youths who believe they own the stadium where government relocated us.’
Inquiries by Fides showed that despite the harsh economic conditions, and the order to operate only thrice a week, the management of Eke Awka appears to continue to milk the traders.
A trader, who refused to disclose her name for fear of victimization, said, ‘Yes, we pay money for tickets every day. Despite our monthly payments, we are still expected to pay for tickets.
‘Lorries driving into the market with food stuffs in this lockdown period, were also made to pay heavily before assessing the markets,’ the source further alleged.
By Ikeugonna Eleke