OWERRI, the Imo State capital, was on Saturday, thrown into confusion, as angry youths clashed with security operatives, who were enforcing the relocation of a market on the orders of Governor Rochas Okorocha.
Nurses at the centre could not respond to questions by our correspondent as one of them said, “My friend, as you can see, we are busy trying to save life. What else do you want to hear from us.”
Trouble erupted when a combined team of the police, army, DSS, NSCDC and those of the Imo security network stormed the market situated on the ever-busy Douglas road with bulldozers to effect the relocation of the market to Egbeada in the Mbaitoli council area as directed by the state government.
But, no sooner had the security agents arrived the market, than the already mobilised youths of the town called the bluff out of them.
Armed with dangerous weapons and chanting solidarity songs with placards bearing various inscriptions which conveyed their opposition to the relocation, the youths began to hurl missiles at the security agents who did not dally to respond accordingly.
In the crossfire that ensued, scores of individuals sustained bullet wounds just as one of them, who was taken to the Federal Medical Centre, was later confirmed dead and his body deposited in the morgue.
Expectedly, the crisis paralysed commercial activities and vehicular movements, thereby forcing a number of individuals to trek long distances before getting to their destinations, even as security was beefed up in all strategic points within the city.
An eye witness said that one Sabastine Oparaku of the Christian Pentecostal Mission (CPM) was relaxing in his palour at No 5/7 Douglas road when a stray bullet pierced through the front door of his house and hit him.
President General of the Owerri Community Assembly, Chief Felix Ngoka, told Sunday Tribune that blood would inevitably flow should the government enforce the much publicised relocation.
“This is a matter that is in court and there is a subsisting injunction restraining Governor Rochas Okorocha from tampering with the market. We are therefore surprised that a governor who is supposed to be the custodian of the law is now teaching us to disobey the law,” he said.
According to him, the market has been at its current location and for over 200 years, it is both the identity and pride of the people as bequeathed to them by their ancestors.
“Owerri People are traditionally peace and law abiding and we are here to defend the court injunction which has restrained Okorocha from tampering with our ancestral market. We are ready to lay down our lives to ensure that the market is not relocated unless the count rules other wise.”
Ngoka, who dismissed Okorocha’s real reasons for his decision to move the market to Egbeada, in the Mbaitoli council area of the state as baseless, said that Owerri indigenes had all along done something to eliminate street/road side trading in the town.