Human Interest

Market demolition: Anambra traders sue Soludo, others for N1.5bn


By Our Correspondent

Traders at the D- line of the Umuokpu, Awka building materials market, renamed Uwakwe Ukaegbu International Building Materials Market, have dragged the Anambra State government to court, claiming N1.5 billion for demolition of their shops and denying them their source of livelihood.

Other defendants in the suit, which has Messrs Anekwe Joseph, Emeka Madiebo and Echezona Nwajiaku for themselves and on behalf of the over 100 affected traders as plaintiffs, are the Awka Capital Territory Development Authority, ACTDA, Awka South local government area and the state Attorney General.

The plaintiffs’ claims against the defendants are:
* a declaration that they are the owners and entitled to the enjoyment of D-line shops lying and situate at Building Materials Market (Uwakwe Ukaegbu International Building materials Market) Umuokpu, Awka South Local Government Area of Anambra State by virtue of their being the holders of valid allocation papers duly issued to them;
*a declaration that the purported revocation of D-line shops carried out by the defendants or any other body or persons whosever, are null and void and of no effect whosoever; and
*an order of the Honourable Court that the defendants should remove the structures they erected in place of the demolished D-Line shops, or in the alternative, re-instate them into the newly erected buildings in place of their D-line shops for enjoyment of same without extra cost on the plaintiffs.

The suit, which was filed on behalf of the plaintiffs by their counsel, Emeka Nwator, sought the order of the court to mandate the defendants jointly and severally, to pay the plaintiffs the sum of N1 billion as damages for loss incurred by them on the process of illegal destruction/demolition of their shops and goods, and N5 million damages for trespass.

When the case came up at the High Court 1, Awka on Wednesday, the lead counsel to the traders, Johnson Ogbuzor, regretted that the defendants were yet to file their defense despite the fact that they had since been served.

Ogbuzor, who appeared with Nwator and J.O. Obiasi, said what happened at the market was a rude shock because some government functionaries went to the market and demolished it, caring less about its effects on the traders who own the shops.He said: “They destroyed the shops on the pretext that they were rebuilding the market and claimed that they had the authority of Governor Chukwuma Soludo, but on investigation, we found out that it was false. That was why we approached the court to bring justice to the affected traders because it is inhuman to treat people like that.

“The reason they gave was that all the people originally allocated the shops had died, which was not true.
” It is unfortunate that these government officials took the laws into their hands by demolishing people’s property with impunity. We are therefore in court to save their business for them.

“I do not believe that Governor Soludo has a hand in this, which is why we want the defendants to restore these traders to their shops and compensate them for destroying their means of livelihood.”

Giving the history of the market, the leader of the affected traders, Mr. Joseph Anekwe, said they started development at the building materials market in 1997, adding that they were surprised to see the defendants in July last year, telling them that all their allocations had been revoked on the basis that people were not occupying them.

“To our greatest surprise, one day we saw bulldozers demolishing our shops and when we wanted to know the reason, they told us that we would get back the shops after rebuilding.

” They have finished the rebuilding and we are still transacting our businesses in the open, with the attendant hard weather conditions. We are helpless and that is why we sued them,” Anekwe said.

A state counsel, Mr. M.E. Nwangwu, who was in court said he was not aware of the matter. He, however, applied for an adjournment to enable the defendants to reply.

The presiding judge, Justice Ike Ogu adjourned the case to 18th June, 2024 for further hearing.

By Ifeizu Joe

Ifeizu is a seasoned journalist and Managing Editor of TheRazor. He has wide knowledge of Anambra State and has reported the state objectively for over a decade.

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