Imo govt and the challenge of ridding Owerri of street markets
Historically Imo was once reckoned as the cleanest state in Nigeria. We prided ourselves with this record until some other state capitals like Akwa Ibom, Cross River now stole the show. Looking at the state capital the way it is at present it will be difficult to convince anybody that Owerri once enjoyed that status. Owerri is now living in its past glory.
Walking through some of the streets of Owerri what would confront you is a maze of confusion as you waltz through sea of traders who had taken a greater chunk of the road plying their wares. Moving by car on some of these street markets which the roads have developed into appears even more frustrating.
Motorists are not only exposed to the dangers of hitting the traders or their wares but are also risk the danger of having their vehicles scratched by wheel barrow pushers. Virtually most of the streets in Owerri which otherwise were strictly residential areas are now wearing commercial looks.
The major street roads affected by street trading include Ama J.K junction linking Royce road, Market road. The Rotibi Street is now a full blown market, while Mbaise road, Douglas road, adjoining streets leading off Tetlow road to Eke Ukwu Owerri among others is not left out too.
The consequences of turning street roads to markets provide a big challenge to the sanitary condition of the entire city as well as other implications. The streets markets generate a lot of wastes which are not properly disposed. Most often they end up in the gutters where they are available and eventually go to block the drainages. Where there are no drains they are left to litter the spaces.
The wastes constitute serious health hazards for the residents of the areas. They deface the environment; they distort the overall outlook of the city and most times are an eye sore to visitors. Again, they distort smooth traffic flow as vehicular movements are terribly slowed down preventing those making emergency runs to reach destinations on time.
It must be admitted that controlling street trading has remained an intractable challenge to previous government. But they are not insurmountable. The issue is that the government need to strategize and develop the political will to tackle this once and for all.
However, it must be observed that the protracted and pronounced nature of street markets especially the ones that are experienced in the areas highlighted above is a fall out of the forced movement of the Eke Ukwu Owerri market out of its present location. Most of the displaced traders who are not relocated have no choice than to find any available space to sell their wares.
Just like the immediate past government of Emeka Ihedioha had contemplated the return of the market following the report of a Committee it set up in that regard, the present administration should either complete that plan or take immediate action to rehabilitate the traders. Settling on the first option would heal the wounds generated from the conflict between the government and the Owerri indigenes over the forceful relocation of the market.
In the meantime, the Environmental Transformation Commission (ENTRACO) charged with the overall responsibility of improving the environmental health of the state should step up its acts in arresting the ugly situations highlighted above. This situation can be achieved through meaningful dialogue between the officials and the leadership of the various trading groups alongside the intervention of appropriate security agencies.
Edge Express frowns at the inhuman nature where some traders have had their goods damaged and food stuffs thrown into gutters in the forceful bid to control the traders. We appeal to the government to respond with despatch to this issue in order to return Owerri to its once beautiful and decent city, qualities the aborigines are noted for. It is not an impossible task.