Traders at Orie Emene in the Enugu East Local Government Area of Enugu State, whose shops were demolished by the state government last year, have accused state officials of using the police to threaten them for protesting against their non-accommodation in the newly-constructed market at Cattle Larearage, Emene Industrial Layout on the Enugu-Abakaliki road.
The aggrieved traders, who have been out of business for nearly a year, had last Thursday threatened to protest against their non-accommodation in the new location but were prevented from doing so by the police.
But shortly after the news of the planned protest became known, the Chairman of the local government, Alex Ugwu, was alleged to have asked the Emene Divisional Police Station to arrest and detain any trader seen in the market for any protest.
Sources told our correspondent that the DPO of the station, CSP Ifeanyi Onu, threatened to arrest the traditional ruler of Emene-Nike, Igwe Felix Ugwu, if the protest held.
Ugwu, who confirmed the threat, told our correspondent on Sunday that the DPO summoned him to his office last Thursday, but he told him that he was indisposed.
“I told him that most of my cabinet members weren’t around and I would want them to accompany me. So, my cabinet members and I will be in his office on Monday (today),” he stated.
Our correspondent gathered that trouble started when over 400 traders, whose shops were demolished, were not accommodated in plots 16B and 16C at the Cattle Larearage Emene Industrial Layout, which were initially allocated for them due to lack of enough space.
The traders, it was learnt, appealed to Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi for more space and he approved plot 16A to accommodate the traders, who were not allocated space and directed the Commissioner for Lands and Urban Development, Dr Victor Nnam, to perfect the plan.
However, plots 16C, 16B and 16A were later revoked by the state government for overriding public interest.
The traders, majority of who are indigenes of Emene-Nike, alleged that their monarch, Ugwu, for not doing much to protect his subjects.
The Chairman and Secretary of the Orie Emene Traders’ Association, Mr Ike Okolo and Mon Nnamchi, alleged that their members had been continuously harassed and intimidated by the Emene Police Division for agitating against their exclusion in the new market.
Efforts to get Nnam’s reaction were unsuccessful as his calls rang out.
However, the DPO said, “I got an intelligent report that the traders would be protesting for whatever they claimed. So, I went to their chairman’s office; he was not there and I got his phone number, called him and told him not to do something that would cause a breach of the public peace.?”
When Ugwu was contacted on the telephone, he declined making comments on the issue.