Investigation:  Imo Markets Development: Imo Govt Breaks Its Rule, As Agents Build On Green Verge, Care Less About Future Setbacks

- As Commissioner For Commerce and Industry Refuses To pick Calls, Reply WhatsApp Messages

By The Nigerian Voice

To any man who understands the truest meaning of sanity, a visit to the markets within Owerri Capital Development will surely nod in bewilderment and disappointment. It is totally a contradiction from the preachings and spirit of the 3R Government.

Can it be said that some of the Governor's appointees and aides are out to destroy him or have they become so hungry that they now do anything at all to make money not minding if anyone dies from their misdemeanor? I thought that the Government is all about impacts and not profiteering. Governor Hope Uzodimma must be careful not to go into the history book of regrets and curses over issues of supplementary status.

General Manager, OCDA, Mr. Francis Chukwu

The organisation of places like markets readily sells to the public the kind of government in place. It gives even a stranger insight into the sanity and competence of those in charge of the various ministries, departments, commissions, and agencies of government.

The Relief market, which is at the heart of Owerri, the capital city of the state, is strategically located behind Dan Anyiam Stadium. Ten percent of the value chain of that market has not been realised. With the side-by-side existence of the Relief Market and Dan Anyiam International Stadium, it follows that those who established the market in their wisdom had envisioned a market where Tourists and Visitors would readily visit to procure some of our products, artifacts, and food items.

Blocks stacked to build other shops on the reserved area and very close to the gutter at Relief Market

Sports generally preoccupy the catalytic position of promoting culture, tourism, civilisation, and development of a people - infrastructural and mentally. The market structure surely represents all that sports and other related activities tend to promote. It is where people's efforts in production and services are converted to value.

However, should there be any international derby between Heartland Football and any international football clubs or an international sporting event, it is certain that the visitors would also leave with the impression that Imo people are uncivilised, and more appropriately, lack of governance, orderliness and leadership.

Shops built very close to the Owerri-Orlu Expressway St Egbeada Market, Owerri

Structures are springing up by the day but they are a mere circus of confusion, the symbol of Golgotha, a showcase of ignorance, and incompetence of those saddled with the responsibilities of market management.

The incumbent Governor of Imo State, Distinguished Senator Hope Odidika Uzodimma had emerged as the State Governor under peculiar circumstances, which gave rise to a radical shift in the style of governance in the state vis-a-vis people-oriented policy thrust and implementation.

The government so far has shown some reasonable shifts in its modus operandi in governance. This can be seen in the improvement in the standard of road construction, rehabilitation, and other infrastructures it has embarked on.

For the sake of human life and overriding public interest, those shops built on the green verge of the markets at Egbeada and Relief Markets should be knocked down.

Speaking with one of the contractors who simply gave his name as Stanley, he confirmed that anyone interested in investing or buying a shop from the ones that are under construction should go ahead not minding whether it is acceptable or not insofar as the Governor of Hope Uzodimma has given his express approval. "What matters is the government's approval. It doesn't matter what anybody thinks as long as the government has given its approval", he said.

When the writer called the General Manager of Owerri City Development Authority (OCDA), Mr Francis Chukwu simply said: "I am innocent of it. Those projects are being done by the Commissioner of Commerce and Industry. I have noted your questions and observations".

Structures built on the green verge and very close to the gutter. Traders are seen displaying their goods on the road. Stacked blocks to continue the aberration of building on reserved areas for future setbacks

In the same manner, a call was put through to the Commissioner of Commerce and Industry, Mr. Simon Ebegbulem, for three times. The phone rang exhaustively at 11:25 am on Monday, but he would not pick his calls and has neither returned the calls till now.

In his WhatsApp messenger, the following questions were put across:

"Hon. Commissioner Sir, I wish to know if you considered the futuristic setbacks to allow those structures springing up at the Relief Market?

Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, Mr. Simon Ebegbulem

"This is to the extent that traders now comfortably sit on the road to do their business.

"Did you consider there could be an accident and Imo people will be killed in their numbers?

"Did you also consider the fact that what plies that road are heavy vehicles?

"How bout the environmental factors like flood because the shops now sit almost by the gutters?

"Did you also consider the fact that there could be need for expansion of that road.

"Have you visited Egbeada recently? The same illegality is being perpetrated there. Did you also approve those structures by the road (highway) or was the Governor properly briefed before giving his approval?"

Obviously, the Commissioner read the message and kept quiet. As of the time of filing this report, (over 24 hours), the Commissioner seems to have no answers to the questions or he may have just considered those observations inconsequential.

By his attitude, it shows he has no regard for sanctity of life, otherwise it's a mark of irresponsibility and crass incompetence.

It is noteworthy to say that the Government may not be following the due process after all. Such projects ought to have been discussed at the level of Executive council where the consequences of such projects should have been discussed and exhaustively deliberated on. It is the Office of the OCDA and Ministry of Lands and Physical Planning that should have looked at the master plan, environmental impacts and risk to the citizenry.

One of the traders on the road by name Ifeyinwa Orjiako when asked why they were practically selling on the road, she said: " Oga, the government is too greedy. The free areas we used to stay to sell our items have been built on. Oga can't you see that even the gutters have been taken. We must feed our family. We cannot stay hungry. We can't even afford the shops. The Government is just for the big men. Big lorries pass here, we keep adjusting so that we cannot be crushed.

It is suggestive that the Government review the present anomalies in the incessant building of market structures where green verges and provisions of the Town Planners for setbacks have been violated.

In the Egbeada market, there are many vacant structures yet government agents are violating the master plan. The market is located by the Owerri-Orlu Expressway. There are sad incidents of lorries and heavy trucks ramming into the markets and the results have always been fatal.

Again, periodic flood incidents have become a recurring decimal. Building close to the gutters and water ways is rather swimming against the tide as the consequences have always been calamitous.

Those whose monies have been appropriated should be refunded without further delay while due process, sanity and competence must remain the tenets of consideration for structural developments.