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Ogige market protest: we were misguided by Labour Party, politicians against govt – Nsukka traders

…tender apologies, say govt means well for Nsukka people

New facts are beginning to emerge weeks after some traders and shop owners affected by the ongoing modern transport interchange aimed at decongesting the heavy traffic and facilitate ease of doing business in the ancient town of Nsukka council area and its environs took to the streets against the project.

The traders, whose shops were demolished at the Ogige Market for the transport interchange project also known as the Nsukka Terminal Station following an alternative location at the Ultra-modern Market, Aku Road, Nsukka Town, with over 5000 new shops, accused the Labour Party in the state and politicians of Nsukka extraction who included Mr Casmir Agbo, LP state chairman, Mr Chijioke Edeoga, LP governorship candidate in the 2023 general elections, and other chieftains of the party of inciting them to violent protest with the assurances that the state government would be blackmailed into backing down from the project.

While calling on the state governor, Barr Peter Mbah, and the state government for forgiveness over their bad behaviour, majority of the traders who have now relocated to the ultra-modern market said they were initially misguided with clannish coloration against the administration.

Speaking to newsmen at the Nsukka ultra-modern market shortly after their morning prayers, on Thursday, Mrs Calista Ugwu, who deals on beverages and drinks, said it never occurred to them that the new market would serve them better than the Ogige Market which was already congested with customers finding it difficult to access parking space and patronize them before the market was demolished.

Mrs Ugwu, who spoke in Nsukka dialect, told our correspondent that months after the government engaged them with notices of demolition and the alternative location, they were invited to meetings which held in the houses of some LP chieftains in the town who encouraged them to disregard the notices and go about their normal business as the leaders of Nsukka had concluded plan to frustrate the project.

“They told us that the government was against Nsukka people because of the past elections and that the Labour Party would do everything to see that we remain in the market.

“Even though our leaders in the Ogige market also took us to town-hall meetings with the government since 2023, our conclusion was that the government did not mean well for us as we were always reporting every decision we reached with the government to the Nsukka leaders in the Labour Party,” the visibly sober trader added.

According to her, when they saw that the demolition was imminent, they quickly evacuated to the new ultra-modern market with more shopping space and parking lots but also decided to protest the demolition, a script she said was prepared for them by a senator representing the Nsukka zone, Mr Okey Ezea, using proxies to execute the plot.

The story was not different from the one told by Chief Kelvin Omeje, an acclaimed successful building materials dealer, who said the whole protest was a hoax and an hatchet job fomented by the Labour Party to paint the state government before the world as Nsukka-phobic.

“We were uncharitably used and dumped by politicians,” he lamented.

Explaining that the terminal station would give Nsukka the modern outlook it deserves, he noted: “We saw the project coming since last year 2023 but like the Labour Party leaders who met the Ogige market traders told us, “no gree for them as our belligerent voices would discourage them from going ahead with the project”, and so we fell for them.

“It’s quite unfortunate that many of us allowed ourselves to be used for sectarian politics and rhetorics of falsehoods. The Labour Party leaders backed down and abandoned us when they saw that the government was unmoved in its determination to pull down the structures and continue with the project. Sadly, we understood rather very late the antics of the wicked because by the time we woke up from the craze incitement, the serious and business-minded ones had already chosen the choicest shops and parking stores.

“All I could say to the governor and the state government is to forgive us because we have now seen that the project will even open up Nsukka for more business opportunities and patronage from other neighboring states”.

A seller of electronics in the new market, who did not want his name in print for fear of being branded anti-party statement, said the stringent resistance from the people of the area was only a manifestation of the sponsored seed of discord their party had sown right from the beginning of the exercise.

“Yes, that’s part of politics. 2027 is around the corner and we needed to prepare the ground for that. We saw the proposed terminal as an opportunity to sow hatred in the minds of Nsukka people, and they bought it hook, line and sinker without asking questions.

“You would even notice that Barr. Casmir Agbo, our party chairman, and Hon Chijioke Edeoga were almost shuttling Nsukka day and night during the protest. They had to bring cash for the execution of the protest. We also had the full support of the APC from the state. If you’re observant enough, you would notice that Barr Edeoga had been visiting the APC leadership in the state immediately before the planned protest”, the LP supporter told our correspondent.

However, majority of the shop owners in the new Nsukka ultra-modern market said that they were making a good sale better than what used to be at the Ogige market where traffic had frustrated their businesses for years.

“I didn’t join the protest because I think it was unnecessary. Besides, when I saw that some party people were the ones pushing for the protest, I knew that it was not for the benefit or interest of the people but to score cheap political points.

“You could imagine Okey Ezea, a senator who could not account for what happened to the trucks of rice and beans given to him for the members of his constituency by President Tinubu in December, and couldn’t give details of how he also spent the over 500 million naira he collected as constituency project, to start calling for protests. As I’m talking to you now, aside some hungry youths he appointed into his media team to serve as attack dogs, he has never offered or facilitated any job or project for over a year now. The Igbo Nsukka must think before taking certain actions in the future,” Nelson Onyeisi, a master degree holder who is doing a POS business in the market lamented.

Another middle-aged fast food seller in the market, Miss Oriaku Ugwuoke, who sued for peace, stressed that the noises that accompanied Ogige market demolition were unnecessary as the government not only engaged traders in the market but also made an alternative provision for them since 2023.

“For me, I don’t think the whole noises were necessary. That is my honest opinion. I have been making a good sale here since I relocated to this ultra-modern market in March this year. People are patronizing my food and I’m even using this opportunity to expand to selling foodstuffs like semo, garri, seasonings, dried fish, oil among other edible items. This was because I saw a gap which served as an opportunity for me to optimize my business,” Oriaku, a graduate of business administration from the University of Nigeria, added.

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