*ignoble act against the poor – Observers
By; PATRICK TITUS, Uyo
Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Environment and Solid Minerals, Mr Charles Udoh has said that the traders in Ifa Ikot Akpan Market in Uyo who prevented government agents on Sunday from demolishing market which government marked as “Illegal Markets” were decisively crushed to serve as a lesson to others.
Udoh in a statement on Monday, described them as miscreants, adding that many of them have been arrested by the police for attempting to block the demolition exercise.
The Environment Commissioner explained that he took the decision to forcefully deal with the market women and street traders because their activities have constituted menace on major roads and other highbrow areas in the Uyo Capital City.
His statement reads, “On Sunday, November 13, 2022, I led a demolition team from the Ministry to the Ifa Ikot Akpan Market on the Airport Road.
“Some miscreants from Ifa Ikot Akpan; led by a young man who claims to be the CLO to the construction company handling the Airport Road expansion project, assaulted me and members of the Ministry’s Enforcement Team but were repelled by law enforcement officers.
“An attempt by the miscreants to mount a blockade on the Airport Road was decisively crushed by a combined team of law enforcement agencies.
“Some of the miscreants have since been arrested and those on the run will be apprehended in due course.”
But when our correspondent visited Ifa Ikot Akpan, a community in Uyo Local Government Area of the state, It was gathered that the community, did not receive any notice from the state government prior to the demolition of the market.
The community said that the state government demolished the market to deprive them of their major source of income and serve as a punishment to them for supporting opposition party’s governorship candidate.
Our correspondent observed that the market shades and tables used by women to display their wares were destroyed by the men of Uyo Capital City Development (UCCD).
It was gathered that the youth of the community who did not accept the action of the state government blocked Oron Road that leads to the airport, while the women carried placards with the inscription “is this the kind of government we want?”.
One of victims of the brutality, identified as Mr. Victor Edet, Secretary of Ifa Ikot Akpan Village Council, our correspondent learnt, was manhandled by security agents on the order of the Commissioner, Mr Udoh for questioning the demolition of the community market.
When narrating the ordeal, Mr Edet, who is also the Community Laison Officer (CLO) for the Airport Road expansion project said that he escaped death because the Commissioner ordered some policemen to beat him without committing any offense.
Edet said he approached the Commissioner to find out the reason behind the demolition since the state government did not serve the community any notice for the relocation of the market but rather than getting an answer, he was severely beaten by the policemen who used boot of guns and machete mercilessly on him and threatened also to kill him.
With machete cuts and wounds on his body, Edet berated the Commissioner’s action on them, and attributed it to the community’s opened support for the governorship candidate of the Young Progressive Party (YPP).
His words, “As I came out that afternoon to meet the Commissioner for Environment, Mr. Charles Udoh, I pleaded with him that the government did not give us any notice for the demolition of this market.
“The word that came out from the Commissioner was that they were looking for me because I am the supporter of Bassey Albert of YPP, he ordered the policemen to beat me up and that Albert will not do anything.
“That was when the policeman hit me with a gun and he ordered a policeman attached to Anti-Cultism to beat me and the police brought out machete to beat me up, he also stabbed me, but I managed to escape,” Edet added.
Another victim from the community, simply called Mama Eno, mother of four children, who was a trader in the demolished Market, said that the news of the market demolition came to her home and she ran down to check what happened.
She lamented that the market was the only place in the community she sells her goods to support her children in school as she is a widow with no help from anybody.
Another victim, a widow from the community who did not give her name alleged that some policemen later broke into people’s houses including bathrooms to arrest some persons who were indoors.
An observer to the incident queried the action of the Commissioner, saying, “Illegal market, yes. Have you provided legal market for the traders to carry out their legitimate business? What is the nearest market to that community? Why not demolish the hotels and sit outs in Ewet Housing in Uyo that were not part of the master plan for the estate? Double standard. You crush the poor with your might and expect to have peace and security.”
“What I have seen from the scenario is simply because the community appears to be supporting OBA, the governorship candidate of YPP against government candidate, Umo Eno of PDP. We pray for a new Akwa Ibom where victimisation, intimidation injustice, brutality and abuse’ of human rights will be things of the past.” Another observer said.