Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi has called on the Lagos State Government to unconditionally release 180 Ebonyi indigenes, incarcerated in Lagos for engaging in hawking.
Umahi made the call on Thursday in Abakaliki, when he received a delegation of Ebonyi indigenes residing in Onitsha, Anambra, who visited him over the plight of its indigenes in the town and across the country.
Umahi represented by his Deputy, Dr Kelechi Igwe, noted that the government received with dismay, the gory ordeals of the victims as narrated by the Ebonyi Development Association in Lagos.
“The 180 victims were accused of contravening a law of the Lagos Government on street trading, but the intriguing aspect is that they had been incarcerated before the law was enacted.
“Most of them had spent over two years in incarceration before the law was enacted, but they were unfortunately charged under the same law.
“I will immediately consult and interact with my Lagos counterpart to ensure the immediate and unconditional release of the victims,” he said.
The governor remarked that the days of treating Ebonyi citizens as second-class citizens in the country were over, as the government would extend its empowerment schemes to its indigenes residing across the country.
“The government would immediately procure over 130 tricycles to enable hawkers of Ebonyi origin in Onitsha and environs, quit the trade and be gainfully employed.
“We would accommodate over 20 indigenes in Onisha in our empowerment scheme, which would offer them a grant of N250, 000 each, to quit street trading and be gainfully employed.
“The beneficiaries would cut across the 13 local government areas of the state and would consist of 50 per cent male and 50 per cent females.
“The empowerment scheme would be extended to over 300 indigenes in Anambra and would subsequently accommodate those in states such as Abia, Kano, Lagos, among others,” he said.
Mr Mathew Njoku, leader of the delegation and the Governor’s Senior Technical Assistant, Onitsha Liaison Office, thanked the governor for the reception and pledged to contribute its quota in the state’s development.
“We thank you for graciously including Ebonyi indigenes in Onitsha and across the country in your empowerment schemes because it would help eradicate the humiliating experiences they undergo while hawking and engaging in other menial jobs.
“Ebonyi indigenes are ranked among the most successful exporters of goods in Onitsha, and are willing to transfer such business acumen to enhance the state’s economy,” he said.
Njoku also pledged that the state’s indigenes in Onitsha would support the governor’s second term bid and also his future political ambition.