Enugu State Government, Thursday, demolished Kenyatta Building Materials Market in Uwani-Enugu, Enugu South Local Government Area of the state. The demolition was carried out by the Enugu Capital Territory Development Authority (ECTDA) early in the morning when most of the traders had not opened their shops for the day. The traders were said to have rebuffed directives by the government to relocate to their permanent site at Ugwuaji area of the state, even when some of their colleagues complied with the directive. When Easterner reporter visited the area, excavators and manual labourers were seen demolishing shops in the market. Several traders struggled to remove their goods from the shops, while others were busy loading their goods into waiting trucks. But those who could not immediately hire trucks, resorted to putting down their goods temporarily along minor roads and streets around the market.
The ECTDA chairman, Joseph Onoh, told reporters that the demolition was a development control measure with the aim of decongesting the capital city. He said the growing population at the demolished market was affecting the development plan of the area. The traders were given adequate time to move to their permanent site, he said. Mr Onoh said the area was originally allocated to the National Youth Council of Nigeria but was converted into a market by the traders.
“As far back as 2003, a site was obtained and designated as Enugu South International Market and the successive state administrations failed to relocate the traders to that site at Ugwuaji,” he said.
“On 6 January 2020, we came for enforcement and we moved a portion of the traders, but some said they didn’t have shops.”
Some traders in the market, who spoke to Easterner, said the government took them unawares. They expressed surprise that the demolition was carried out despite a court injunction against it. Mike Okonkwo, a shop owner at the market, told this newspaper that although they were notified that the market would be demolished, they were not told of the date of the demolition.
“They told us that they were coming, since last two years, and we were waiting for them to give us (exact) time, and suddenly they came today and started demolishing our shops,” said Mr Okonkwo, whose two shops were demolished.
“One shop is worth N15 million,” he added.
Another shop owner, who accused the leadership of the market of sabotage, lamented that they have lost millions of naira due to the demolition. Some traders sued the state government over their plan to demolish the market. A notice of the lawsuit and a court injunction was seen pasted on one of the buildings in the market.
In the notice, dated 4 August 2022, and signed by Justice P. C. Ugwueze of Enugu State High Court, the parties (traders and ECTDA) were ordered to maintain “the status quo and preserve the Res” in the matter pending the hearing of the substantive application.
It also indicated that the suit has been adjourned to 21 September.
Notice duly served
The Chairman of Kenyatta Market Traders Association, Chinweuba Igwesi, told reporters that the state government duly notified the traders of the demolition . The market leader said the traders had been asked several times to move to the permanent site, but that they were reluctant to do so, before the market was demolished.
“Anybody who said they were not notified is trying to lie to the public,” he said, adding that the only complaint was that some traders were yet to get shops in the permanent site.
“So, notice was given to them and not up to three weeks or one month ago, another people came and gave them (traders) seven days ago (to vacate the place),” Mr Igwesi added.
Although the market leader confirmed the existence of a lawsuit, he declined to comment on it.