Traders in Abakaliki metropolis have decried the sealing of their shops by combined task force team and members of the Ebonyi Neighborhood Watch on the orders of the Ebonyi State Government.
Speaking with reporters on Saturday in Abakaliki, the traders described the action of government as economic ‘annihilation’ and urged the authority to unseal the affected shops.
Reacting, Mr Emma Uzor, Special Assistant to Gov. Dave Umahi on Markets said that the sealed shops were located in residential buildings and that government was committed to restoring the Abakaliki master plan.
“The Abakpa area originally is meant for residential purposes, but due to its closeness to the defunct Abakaliki main market, landlords in the area converted their buildings to commercial shops,” Uzor said.
The affected shops were located along Gunning Road near the defunct Abakpa Main Market; some parts of the popular Ogoja Road, New Market Road and Afikpo Road.
Mr Mathew Okorie, a trader whose shop was located in the affected areas said that his family was at the risk of starvation following the seal up of his business premises by the state government.
“I was attending to a customer, before I knew it, I saw people running helter-skelter, carrying things. I just managed to lock my shop and escape before the taskforce arrived and sealed it.
“Every other shop around the area was locked. We thought that it was just the normal routine they do because it had happened in the past when they were relocating the Abakpa Market.
“Since June 5, the incident happened, I have not opened the shop to sell and my children and dependants are starving.
“I call on relevant human rights bodies to come to our rescue because the buildings housing our shops are far from the defunct Abakpa Main Market whose occupants were relocated to the international market in February,” he said.
Okorie noted that he and other shop owners had renewed their rents for another one year, adding that the shops were not located within the peripheries of the former market where government banned business activities.
”Throughout the period of discussion about market relocation, we were not carried along, we were not asked to buy shops in the new international market because we are not part of the (Abakpa) market.
”I am appealing that the government should allow us to continue our businesses because we have paid all our taxes to the state and are not inside the market,” he added.
Similarly, another trader Mr Nnaemeka Anayo who deals on computer accessories along Gunning Road, said that throughout 2018 and 2019 when discussions about relocating the market began, they were never part of it.
“In February, when the Abakpa Main Market was relocated to its permanent place, we were not part of the people that were asked to move,” Anayor said.
Also, Mr Sunday Uchenna, dealer on phone accessories lamented that the actions of the task force have affected them emotionally, financially and materially.
“Businesses are crashing due to the lockdown occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic, while families are struggling to survive the economic hardship.
“We have been out of business since one week that government sealed our shops and everywhere in the world and even the most developed countries, people still do street trading.
“Latest report from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) shows that Ebonyi is rated poorly and with what is happening now, the state will still go down because small scale businesses are pivotal to economic growth,” he said.