There are indications that Owerri, the Imo state capital is presently under serious siege and bloodletting is imminent, as Governor Rochas Okorocha has embarked on another round of demolition exercise as part of the much criticized urban renewal programme of his administration.
Investigations reveal that all the major roads, streets and points of entrance into the state capital have been blocked and vehicles barred from plying them since Thursday last week, while heavily armed uniformed soldiers, para-military and police men aside being positioned in strategic places, parade the entire vicinity, allegedly terrorizing, intimidating and harassing law abiding citizens and preventing them from doing their lawful businesses.
Further investigations also reveal that there have been renewed clashes between agents of the government, Ohaji/Egbema boys said to have been brought in by government on one side and Owerri youths, traders, artisans etc who are being chased around molested and prevented from going about their legitimate duties.
“For instance, all the shops along Douglas road, Tetlow road, Old market road, Okigwe road and adjourning streets have been barricaded since Wednesday last week, and vehicles are not also allowed to ply them. This has really impoverished majority of the people whose businesses are located there and also worsened the already deplorable and chaotic transport situation, occasioned by the ramsy season and bad road network. There have also been alleged cases of pilfering, looting, robbery and snatching of phones and other valuables by some of the overzealous security agents and the Ohaji/Egbema boys, most of whom are said to be miscreants and deviants who delight in unleashing violence and mayhem on people, for a fee”.
The crux of the matter, according to eye witness accounts is the Governor’s insistence on demolishing more houses along Douglas roads and adjoining streets, in addition to the massive demolition of houses, offices and shops already done along Wethdral road, Okigwe road and other places.
A radio announcement by the state government, signed by the State Commissioner for Transport, who is also Chairman of the Imo Transport Company (ITC), Prince Lasbery Okoroafor Anyanwu barred commercial buses from entering Owerri Municipality, while landlords in Ihugba street, Ogugba street, School road, Mbaise road by Douglas road, Nworie lane, Ama-JK, Stadium lane and other streets have been warned against renting or giving out any portion of their houses for commercial purposes or street traders, hawkers or risk having the houses demolished.
According to the announcement that has been consistently aired in Orient Radio and Television stations, traders are asked to move to the International market at Ubommiri, while street petty traders and hawkers were told to move to Chukwuma Nwoha Park. Security agents have been mandated to destroy or confiscate good and wares of defaulters.
The Governor recent ban on street trading, even in rented shops and the ban on commercial buses from entering the Municipality, is said to have further impoverished and pauperized the people, increased their pain, trauma and agony, more so when civil servants and pensioners, aside being owed several months arrears, are paid less than sixty percent of their emoluments sparingly.
Some of the victims who spoke on condition of anonymity, lamented that “after the demolition of Ekeukwu Owerre market and the loss of our shops there, some of us borrowed money to rent shops along some of these streets where we have also been barred from selling and doing business. What does this man want us to do and how does he want us to sustain our families?”.
Two Hausa men were said to have been killed at Ama Hausa along Douglas road on Sunday 15th April 2018 in a fracas between them and Owerri youths who queried why the Hausa should be allowed to freely operate and do business while they are chased around, harassed, intimidated and prevented from doing their legitimate businesses. There have also been other reported deaths and casualties in Owerri in the past one week, arising from governor Okorocha’s clampdown on traders, drivers and business owners generally.
A middle aged woman was reported to have slumped and died as a result of shock at Nworie lane on Saturday 14th April 2018, while others were said to have been killed by stray bullets.