Governor Chukwuma Soludo of Anambra State has been urged to urgently prevail on his Special Adviser on Market, Evaristus Ubah, to stop further harassment and intimidation of Chief Sabest Uzoeto, the managing director of Ezinwanne Shopping Mall at No 39 Silas Works Road, Onitsha and the widows carrying out their legitimate businesses in the mall.
Addressing newsmen in his office Weekend, Sabest said he started business at the premises in 2016 and he incorporated it with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) as well as obtained a Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) from the Anambra State Government for the property housing the business.
He said when the State Government directed all the vegetable and fruit sellers along the Expressway to vacate some weeks back, some women mostly widows joined them in the Plaza at No 39 Silas Works Road, Fegge, Onitsha to continue their trading to make ends meet for their families.
But the Special Adviser and his cohorts, he alleged, on January 12, 2024, stormed the place, and attacked them, beating, maiming and shooting indiscriminately.
In the process, he said, some traders sustained various degrees of injuries, one of them, he said, is currently hospitalised.
He alleged that the Special Adviser insisted that the women must relocate to Ogbaru but if they must stay back, they should not buy fruits like Watermelon, Cucumber and others from North, rather they should buy from those at Ogbaru Fruit market, behind Power Mike Stadium before moving them to the plaza.
Sabest said his mall is purely private, not a Government mall or market, insisting that both the women and himself have their fundamental rights according to Chapter 4, Section 33 to 44 of the 1999 Constitution as amended to carry out their legitimate businesses as law-abiding citizens.
We learnt that the businessman has been buying the same product from the North and Delta states respectively in bulk quantity, why would someone forcefully compel him to start buying from a third party, especially at an “arrange Power Mike local market in Ogbaru local government Area “?
The Governor’s directive, said Sabest, was to flush out those trading along the Expressway. Why is SA on the market and his cohorts coming to his mall? We are not on the road. We are inside the town” and in the Mall, he said.
The businessman said they don’t constitute any environmental hazard since they cleared the drainage system every week and swept inside the mall at the end of their business activities every day.
Sabest queried “So, all these malls in Onitsha and Asaba, Government officials would tell them the type of goods to deal on and where to buy them. What type of monopoly do they want to impose on these poor widows in a free market cum capitalist economy?”.
He said that since 2016 he has been buying these fruits from the North and Delta State but the SA and his people came and told him that he should stop buying from there, rather from the Power Mike market.
Meanwhile, the Anambra Markets Elders Forum (EMEF) has warned the Special Adviser on Market, to desist from further harassment and intimidation of Sabest and the Women trading in the mall, situated at 39 Silas Works Road, Fegge, Onitsha.
In a statement issued in Onitsha, the group cautioned the leadership and operatives of the Ocha Brigade not to allow themselves to be used to oppress widows who are engaged in legitimate means of earning their living.
In the statement signed by the chairman of the forum High Chief Uzoma Anunihu, said they heard that the SA had threatened to return in full force on Tuesday, February 6, 2024.
They warned that they should not attempt it because if they do, the women and human rights community in the State would stage the mother of all protests in the State.
They called on Governor Soludo to use his good offices to prevail on the excesses and personal agenda of his Special Adviser on the Market who has continued to pose a serious threat to his second-term ambition in 2025 by his inglorious and unfriendly dispositions.