Indigenes of Umuoma, Ogbe Ahiara and Ahiazu in Mbaise Local Government Area of Imo State have cautioned Governor Rochas Okorocha to rescind his plan to demolish their ancestral market.
They said that the market is a veritable symbol for them and a major source of livelihood.
In a peaceful protest to register their opposition, the aggrieved villagers said the demolition of the market, known as Afor Ogbe, would bring poverty to the people.
The protesters, who sang solidarity songs holding palm fronds, carried placards with inscriptions such as “Afor Ogbe is our heritage, we do not want any interference from government”, “Demolition of Afor Ogbe will only bring poverty to our people”, “Government of Imo State leave Afor Ogbe alone”, among others.
The irate villagers vowed to resist the demolition.
Speaking during the protest, Chairman of Aladimma Umuoma, Chief Emmanuel Egbutu, told Southern City News that the people were opposed to the market demolition because it is a major source of livelihood, adding that it is also one of the symbols of the village.
According to Egbutu, when the stories of government’s intention to demolish the market filtered into the ears of the indigenes, they waited patiently to hear directly from the government but all to no avail.
“They had also falsely claimed to have secured the blessing of the traditional ruler of the Ogbe community, HRH Eze Pat Ihuoma which eventually turned out to be a ruse.
“Demolition of the market will adversely affect our people economically and if the market requires renovation, let the government allow us to effect the repairs by ourselves because we have the resources to do this. If they want to build a new market in our area, we will provide land for them but let them leave our ancestral market for us,” he said.
Other indigenes, Onyekwere Nze, Celestine Agbiogwu and Mrs Nkem Nwosu who variously corroborated the views of Egbutu warned the state government to drop the planned market demolition.
They stressed that doing otherwise would impose avoidable hardship on those whose means of livelihood depend on it.
When contacted, the state Commissioner for Information, Prof. Nnamdi Obiareri, said he was not aware of the development.
Also, the Commissioner of Non-Formal Sector, Mrs. Joy Mbawuike, made the same claim that she was not aware of the demolition exercise.