Traders dealing on machetes and knives at Onitsha main market, Anambra State, on Friday protested what they termed secret moves to demolish their shops and revoke their allocation papers during the yuletide break.
The traders, under the aegis of Machetes Line Association, accused the authorities of Onitsha Main Market Traders Association (OMMATU) of perfecting the planned demolition and revocation exercises.
The protesters, who marched round the main market, carrying placards with various inscriptions, also alleged that the plot was in conjunction with the authorities of Onitsha North local government council and the Amalgamated Traders Association of Anambra State (AMATAS).
Chairman of the association, Chief Felix Mgbachi and the Secretary, Chimezie Ezeibekwe who led the demonstrators, queried the rationale behind such plans to dispossess them of shops they claimed were allocated to them by the state government.
They called for governor Obiano’s intervention to save them from being dispossessed of their legitimate shops.
“This is illegal and dubious because we have been paying our taxes and levies regularly to the state government,” they decried.
In a swift reaction however, Chairman of OMMATU, Chief I. K. Ekwegbalu, described the protest as fruitless exercise.
He said he was shocked to hear that traders demonstrated around the market without first approaching him to ascertain the true position before embarking on the protest.
Confirming the closure of the markets for the yuletide from December 24 to January 7, 2019, Ekwegbalu said the convertion of the portion of the market largely owned by butchers from open warehouse to lockup shops was to meet with modern trend.
President-General of AMATAS, Chief Okwudili Ezenwankwo who also confirmed plans to construct lock-up shops in the market, however assured that the machete dealers would retain their shops if they paid the contractors that handled the work.
Ezenwankwo further revealed that he had been approached by some of the machete dealers, pledging their readiness to pay the contractors to retain their shops.