Demolitions | Government Justification |Consequences
|2012-2016||Beginning from 2012, an unceasing string of demolition exercises has raged through the State in the name of urban renewal. In a number of press statements, Imo State Government has said the demolition exercises form part of its urban renewal efforts to make Owerri a modern city befitting its state capital status. The urban renewal programs comprise mainly of road expansion and dualization, roundabouts, flyovers and tunnel projects in different parts of the state capital, Owerri. The dualization of major roads has particularly triggered massive demolitions exercises targeting residential and commercial buildings along Orlu Road, Wetheral Road, Douglas Road, Orji Road, Bank Road, MCC/Uratta Road, Nekede Road, Ikenegbu Layout, Aladinma, Works Layout, Amakohia, Akwakuma, and so forth. Imo State’s urban renewal program has seen nearly all monuments and historical sites in Owerri demolished, displacing thousands of persons and businesses.|
Major Demolition Sites
|2012||Imo Multipurpose Hall and Banquet Lodge demolished and replaced.|
|2013||Ojukwu Memorial Library located at 2 Ralph Uwazuruike Street, Area G, New Owerri, demolished by unknown persons. It was built by the leader of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Chief Ralph Uwazuruike, in honour of the late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu.|
|2014||Imo State Library: Nigeria Labour Congress and Nigerian Library Association (NLA), Imo State Chapter, protested against the plan. Imo state House of Assembly also unanimously resolved that the state library must stay. Governor Rochas Okorocha went ahead with the demolitions. Imo State Library was demolished and replaced with a chapel. [See Premium Times: Goodbye Imo State Library, Welcome Rochas’ Chapel!, By Victoria Ohaeri]|
|2015||Ama JK Recreation Park: Imo My Pride Task Force and Owerri Capital Development Authority (OCDA) demolished Ama JK Recreation Park rendering the staff jobless.|
|2016||Mbari Cultural Centre, a museum of Igbo culture, and a multipurpose art and cultural centre in Mbari Street, Ikenegbu Layout, demolished. [See On Okorocha and Mbari and Cultural Center: http://punchng.com/okorocha-mbari-cultural-centre/ ]|
|2016||Fences of private and public buildings: The fence of the private residence of former minister of Interior, Captain Emmanuel Ihenacho (rtrd) located along Orlu Road, was demolished. Ihenacho’s fence and scores of buildings were affected. Imo Government announced that affected buildings violated the 50 metres setback from the major roads prohibited by the city master plan. Other affected fences include that of the Federal Medical Centre (FMC) Owerri, Alvan Ikoku College of Education, Imo State Independent Electoral Commission (ISIEC), Pinewood Hotel, Egwuagu Supermarket and many others.|
|2017||Alleged Kidnappers’ Houses: Imo State Government and Imo State Police Command demolished houses belonging to two alleged notorious kidnappers in the state. The demolition took place at Ohuba Community in Ohaji/Egbema LGA belonging to one John Chima (27), also called America, and Anderson Ahaneku (30).|
|2017||Shell Camp (Alvan Staff) Residential Quarters, inhabited by serving and retired lecturers of Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education, was demolished and the occupants forcefully evicted, despite a subsisting court order. [See Premium Times: AICE, Rochas Okorocha and Kangaroo Eviction Orders, By Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri]|
|Timeline of events|
Eke-Ukwu Market Demolition
|Eke-Ukwu market has been in existence for over two centuries. In pre-colonial Nigeria, buyers and sellers convened at the market every four days to trade on ‘Eke’ market day. ‘Ukwu’ is an Igbo word which means ‘big’. Eke-Ukwu therefore means the big market that trades on Eke day. The market shares boundaries with Umuonyeche village in the North of Owerri, Amawom village in the East, Umuoronjo village in the South and Umuodu/Umuoyima village in the West side. The market predates the present geographical space, called ‘Imo State’.|
Over the years, the centrally-located market, which started from a few stalls has expanded to a total of 3,336 stalls used for daily trading and the supply of various goods and services. The market remains the biggest market in Owerri Council Development Area (OCDA).
|1987||The market was destroyed by fire during the 1986-1989 tenure of military governor, Commodore Amadi Ikwechegh. Traders were advised to relocate to then alternative market called ‘Relief Market’ situate at Egbu Road. Relief Market is a government purpose-built market smaller in size, compared to the Eke-Ukwu market. Although, some traders relocated from Eke-Ukwu market to Relief market, the attempt to move the market failed as traders rebuilt the market, and it later witnessed further expansion in trading activities.|
|2015||Imo Governor, Rochas Okorocha, announced plans to relocate the market to a new site in the city outskirts, near Ubomiri in Mbaitolu Local Government Area. The new market site is presently under construction.|
Urban renewal and crime-fighting were the reasons advanced for relocating the market. Traders claim to have received some form of notification which did not specify the intended date of relocation. There were speculations that government authorities proposed to construct a school or factory in place of the market.
|2016||Opposing the state government’s plans to relocate the market, the traders filed a lawsuit at an Imo High Court, praying for a court order restraining the State government from demolishing the market and evicting the traders.|
In September 2016, an Imo State High Court presided over by Justice Sabinus I. Opara, restrained the state government from destroying, relocating or tampering with the Ekeukwu Owerri Market, pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit, HOW/380/2016.
|Traders received 48-hours notice of state intent to evict them and demolish the market. The State government required the traders to relocate to the new site which is still under construction. In radio and television announcements, the State government ordered traders to start buying up the shops in the new site.|
24 – 25, 2017
|To prevent the demolitions, the youth held vigils throughout the nights of August 24th and 25th, 2017 to secure the market from any attack.|
|While the community kept watch, several security personnel from the Nigerian army, navy, police and civil defence forces arrived at Eke-Ukwu market in the evening of August 25, 2017. On arrival, they met a crowd of youth protesting at a local street adjoining the market. Security operatives notified them of their plan to remove only the shanties in and around the Eke-Ukwu market, alleged to be a safe haven for criminals and touts. The youth believed the claims and dispersed at about 4.00 a.m.|
|Barely two hours after the crowd dispersed, demolition officials went ahead to demolish the market and evict its occupants in violation of the subsisting court order. The demolition agents comprised of members of the state security forces and hundreds of unidentified armed men in mufti.|
Major market stalls and buildings were pulled down with goods still inside. The military personnel stationed a green coloured ‘armoured tank’ in the market. They reportedly opened fire on protesting local youth, shooting sporadically in various directions. A total of 3 deaths were reported after the demolition exercise. One of the victims has been identified as a 10-year-old boy, Somtochukwu Ibeanusi, who was hit by a stray bullet while salvaging goods from his parent’s stall.
|Eke-Ukwu Owerri Market Demolitions: Casualty Figures|
|Security forces injured 8 persons during the demolition exercise:|