Suleiman Anyalewechi, Aba
The battle over the real ownership of the over 5000 shops undergoing remodelling and reconstruction at the Ariaria International Market appears to have deepened, with more people staking their claims.
This followed a protest march by some forces Tuesday July 4, calling on the Abia state government and all relevant authorities to disregard precious attempts by some traders to lay claims to ownership.
NewsCritic online had last Friday, June 30 exclusively reported an alleged move to counter an earlier protest march by traders on June 27, demanding the return of their shops which they said have been used by the immediate past regime of Dr Okezie Ikpeazu to settle some government officials and other cronies.
NewsCritic online reports that the counter protest which is believed to be enjoying the backing of the contracting firm, Blessed Henken and some past officials of the market earlier scheduled for last June 30, could not hold as a result of the state government inauguration of Caretaker Committees for Abia Markets which held same day in Umuahia.
Addressing pockets of the protesting shops claimants at the Henken Plaza along the popular A line of the market, Chief Nnamdi Nwokoro aka ND Don, who spoke on their behalf said their mission is to inform the Abia state government and the general public that they are the real shop owners, contrary to the impression being created by the earlier protesters.
“This protest march is mainly to correct the misconception being bandied about by those people that protested last week, claiming that they are the real shop owners.
The fact of the matter is that after the demolition of the shops, government asked affected traders to come along with their original titles and register. We did exactly that and we have made all the necessary payments leading to the allotted shops. All those people going about making all sorts of claims are interlopers,” he claimed.
However, a source close to the earlier protesters told NewsCritic online that they are not surprised at the antics of the latest protesters and neither are they perturbed.
“Everybody at this market is aware of the antecedents of the so-called counter protesters. There is nobody at this market that does not know that the contractor and most of the people that have held this market down over the years are behind this charade. Let me tell you, I know how the contractor has been labouring since last week to recruit some people to embark on this deceptive exercise.
Unfortunately for them, the government of the day which is not deceptive, is not deceived by their antics. These were the same set of people who were mandated by the affected traders and shop owners to go and protect them through the court, when the whole thing began. But they betrayed the traders after being compromised and today they are happy that thousands of their colleagues are suffering due to their greed”, our source lamented.