Dr Philip Njemanze, a chieftain of the Association of Catholic Medical Doctors of Nigeria, pro-life advocate and Medical Director, New Chidicon Hospital, Owerri, has dragged a former governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha to International Criminal Court in respect of what he referred to as ill-conceived demolition of Eke Ukwu Owerri market where goods worth over N1b were destroyed.
Prof Njemanze, an indigene of Amawom community in Owerri Municipal Council of Imo State who vehemently protested against the demolition of the ancestral market and other historical sites said the ill-conceived demolitions were crimes against humanity.
The renowned neuro scientist in a letter to Dr Mechtild Rosster, Director of Heritage Division and World Heritage centre, UNESCO and copied to the Prosecutor, ICC, under the “the auspices of Owerri Indigenous People Youth of Amawom, partly wrote “These actions are Crimes Against Humanity, which is under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in Den Hague, The Netherlands.”
Some of the requests made by the Njemanze led group include “An Executive Presidential Order stopping all interference, demolition, removal of historical sites including Eke Ukwu Owerri Market, buildings, arts and cultural centres of the Indigenous People of Owerri and in Imo State.
“To mandate UNESCO World Heritage Centre’s investigators in collaboration with Federal Ministry of Information and Culture to further uncover the facts of the historical sites in Owerri using indigenous knowledge base, for enlistment and protection under the UNESCO World Heritage Convention.
The ICC, in its response to Njemanze’s requests had said it had taken up investigation on the matter.
It would be recalled that former governor Rochas Okorocha, on August 26, 2018, ordered the demolition of the market in a manner many referred to as ill-conceived and poorly implemented urban renewal program of his self –acclaimed Rescue Mission administration.
The demolition of Eke Ukwu Owerri Market aside inflicting pain, hardship and lack on the displaced traders and shop owners who lost their means of livelihood also claimed the life of an innocent only son of his parents named Somtochukwu Ibeannsi who was killed by a stray bullet shot by one of the security operatives who came to enforce the demolition.
According to a source, thousands of Imolites whose houses, shops, offices and business premises were also demolished at Orji, Akwakuma, Amakohia, Owerri Municipal Council including Mechanics and other artisans who were either rendered homeless, dislodged, and/or sent out of business are still lamenting and recounting their woes and losses till date without any form of compensation or palliative extended to cushion the effect of the reign of terror on them and their families.