Market women in Ughelli and civil rights groups have accused Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan’s administration of high-handedness as the government reportedly proceeds with a plan to evict traders from a 50-year old market that has been slated for demolition.
The state government plans to demolish the old market and relocate it to a new site in a different community.
The plan has drawn condemnation from women traders across the state as well as civil groups.The affected traders, who are mostly widows and single mothers, and youths in the area, have vowed to resist the government’s eviction and demolition plan by all means.
Over the last three days, economic and social activities have ground to a virtual halt, with stores and businesses shut down in solidarity with the Ughelli women traders protesting the planned relocation of the market. “This is the only market owned by the [Ughelli] kingdom,” one of the protesters said. “So why is it that the government now wants to close it down and move it?”
Many of the women, who are carrying out a peaceful protest, harped on the fact that the market has existed in Ughelli market for more than 50 years. They argued that customers would find it difficult to access the proposed site of a new market. They stressed that the neighboring communities, including Ekakpamre, Ufuoma, Eruemukokurie, and Effurun-Otor, trade in the Ughelli main market.
A protesting woman told SaharaReporters that the government’s plan market re-allotment program would engender poverty. “The amount of economic loss will be enormous because we women run our businesses on micro-credit and loans from micro-finance and commercial banks. And we service these loans with quick turn-over from our businesses.”
Several of the visibly angry women said the government’s plan also threatened the educational future of their children, noting that the new market location has no schools around it. “So many of us have [more than] six children each who attend various schools around Iwreko and Ekiugbo. How can we leave our stalls to go and carry our children after school hours?”
Another protester stated that the new site is located along the East-West Road, under construction, adding that the location was hard for mothers and children to access.
Last Sunday, a large group of protesters gathered at the palace of the Ughelli monarch for prayers and consultations. A letter containing their position was presented to the monarch.
The letter called on Mr. Uduaghan to “stay action on the threatened eviction, demolition and relocation of Ughelli goods market because the adverse socio-economic consequences and impact that it will create will be too difficult for the state government to handle.”