No fewer than 1000 traders of the Abakaliki building materials market were on Monday morning displaced following the demolition of the market by the Ebonyi State government.
The incident happened in the early hours of Monday when the state government sent in bulldozers to demolition the premises following the court order to demolish the market.
However, with the expiration of the date, the demolition took some traders unaware as the new market is yet to be completed.
Traders who spoke to Tribune Online accused the state government of huge extortion at the exit gates while removing their properties remaining at the market.
Tribune Online visited the scene and observed the presence of armed security men who blocked one lane of the road thereby causing heavy traffic in the area while traders were seen rushing into the market to save their goods from being destroyed by bulldozers.
Tribune also observed that some traders paid N10,000, N20,000 to state government agents stationed at the entrance gates so as to save their goods from being demolished.
According to one of the traders, Mr Ugochukwu Iheanachor, while counting his loses, said the government would have given them more time since the new site has not been completed.
He added that the forceful eviction of traders unexpectedly is exposing them to danger as the government fails to put all forms of security in the new site.
He then called on the government to extend the time.
Another trader, Mr Obasi Chukwudi said, “Actually government gave us 28 February 2021, but we never knew it will be so urgent like this because the new site has not been completed.
“Government gave us the order to pack out of this place to the new site but we didn’t know it was urgent because we thought they will give us time to prepare ourselves. They gave us 1st March and we thought they will give us an extension of at least one week because the new site has no wall nor security, even the building has not been completed.”
Obasi further added that demolition will not only affect their businesses but the wellbeing of their families also.
“Now they said nobody should stay on the street nor on the road to sell; that means they want us to die” the traders lamented.
When contacted to speak on the alleged extortion, the secretary to the state government Dr Kenneth Ugbala, said, “I am not aware of the extortion but I will call them on phone now.”
Also contacted was the Special Assistant to the governor on Project, Mr Richard Idike, he also says ” Nobody should give anybody money,” adding that he would visit the scene.