Traders in Aba on Wednesday petitioned the Abia State House of Assembly, demanding the sack of Abia State Commissioner for Trade and Investment, Mr. Cosmos Ndukwe over indiscriminate stalls in Ekeoha Shopping Centres.
The petition which was written by “Barr Nwaugo Victor C and Co” on behalf of the traders said Ekeoha Shopping Centre, Aba, is a Shopping Complex envisioned, designed and constructed in blocks of bungalow stores with open space, walkways, fire station, banking hall, car parks, emergency exit points for human and vehicular movements at all relevant periods and even in cases of fire outbreak.
The traders revealed that it is unfortunate that all the aforementioned facilities have been converted into market stalls on the authorization of the Commissioner for Trade and Investment, Rt Hon.Cosmos Ndukwe with the connivance of the current Chairman of Ekeoha Shopping Centre Traders Association, one Mr. Friday Dimiri.
The traders further said that the actions of the Commissioner could lead to mass death of traders and their customers and pleaded with Abia government to intervene immediately.
The petition reads in parts,
“We write on behalf of CONCERNED TRADERS OF EKEOHA SHOPPING CENTRE, ABA represented by Hon. Oriaku Ugochukwu, James Eze, Jona Anayogu and Chukwueke Nwokocha of Ekeoha Shopping Centre.
(1) Ekeoha Shopping Centre, Aba, is a Shopping Complex envisioned, designed and constructed in blocks of bungalow stores with open space, walkways, fire station, banking hall, car parks, emergency exit points for human and vehicular movements at all relevant periods and even in cases of fire outbreak. Unfortunately, and sadly, all the aforementioned facilities have been converted into market stalls on the authorization of the Commissioner for Trade and Investment, Rt Hon.Cosmos Ndukwe with the connivance of the current Chairman of Ekeoha Shopping Centre Traders Association, one Mr. Friday Dimiri.
(2) While it is bad that the Commissioner for Trade and Investment authorized the conversion of such facilities like car park, fire station, driveway, emergency exit ways, and some walkways with the market, it is inquitous, tended to cause mass death of traders and their customers for the said Commissioner for Trade and Investment, Rt Hon. Cosmos Ndukwe, to approve and allocate for construction, two floors of Lock Up Stalls on top of the originally designed and built bungalow blocks of stalls in the said market without the matching beams, pillars, rods and decks, thereby creating three levels of stalls in the said market which was originally designed and constructed as one level block of stalls.
(3) it is interesting to note that the said Commissioner for Trade and Investment and his Ekeoha Shopping Centre Traders Association Chairman, Mt Friday Dimiri, were able to achieve this wicked act of turning “EKEOHA SHOPPING CENTRE ” into a death trap with the aid of their security men whom they recruited from the existing Abia State Vigilante Services in amanner likened to that of NAPOLEON in “Animal Farm”. The duo also suppress every opposing view at Ekeoha Shopping Centre with the aid of the recruited security men from the Abia State Vigilante Service.
(4) The sins of the said Hon Cosmos Ndukwe and Mr Friday Dimiri are many, indeed, they are legion. These two persons negotiated with the Independent Power Plant Station (Called Ekeoha Power Station), disconnected all stalls in the said market from linkage to EEDC electricity supply and imposed an Independent Power Plant Station on the Traders with very high billing rate collected by them on a daily basis; so much so that the majority of the traders who cannot afford the usage of the independent power plant are not connected to it, yet, are not permitted to connect to EEDC electricity supply thereby throwing the Shopping Centre into deep darkness also as a result of stalls built on the open spaces through which sun rays would have permeated to the walkways into the market.
(5) The said Commissioner for Trade and Investment with his Ekeoha Shopping Centre Traders Association Chairman, Mr Friday Dimiri, unilaterally imposed a high rate stallage and other fees per each stall, by making an increase from Five Thousand Naira to Eight Thousand Naira. When the traders protested, the said Commissioner promised that 10% of the said stallage fees would be remitted back to the traders for maintenance of the market. Regrettably, since 2019 when this regime of fees started under Hon Cosmos Ndukwe, the said Commissioner has neither remitted the said 10% to the traders nor carried out any maintenance work in the market but has also shared proceeds of this 10% with the said Chairman of the Traders Association.
(6) As a result of these mean and wicked acts of Hon. Cosmos Ndukwe and Mr Friday Dimiri, the Shopping Centre is now faced with the following dire predicaments:
(I) Darkness now envelopes the stalls in the said Shopping Centre
(ii) Availability of network for easy communication has become a scarce commodity as air waves have been blocked by the compact nature of the stalls
(iii) In the event of any fire outbreak, firefighters can no longer drive their vehicle into the market to quench the fire
(iv) It has become a daily occurrence to see decked floors in the said Shopping Centre collapse, injuring traders, their customers, and damaging their goods. As a tip, on the 17th of August, 2020, a wing of stalls at Zone 11 of the said Shopping Centre collapsed and caused heavy panic among traders and all those present there then. Other examples abound, Ekeoha Shopping Centre is now a case of One Week, One Collapse of either a stall or wing of stalls.
Ekeoha Shopping Centre was envisioned and built to avert disaster that befell Igbo Traders in 1976 when the Famous Ekeoha market was gutted by fire. Unfortunately today, the dreams of our fathers who envisioned the Shopping Centre and built it as the pride of Aba have been killed on the altar of extortion, greedy acquisition of filthy lucre on the blood of the innocents.
In the circumstances of our Petition, our clients pray the Abia State House of Assembly for the following reliefs namely:
(a) Setting up of an Ad Hoc Commitee of the Abia State House of Assembly made up of men and women with fear of God, respect for humanity and desire for truth to Investigate the contents of our allegations above by hearing from the traders and coming to the said Shopping Centre to see things for themselves.
(b) Suspension of the Commissioner for Trade and Investment, Hon. Cosmos Ndukwe and the Chairman of Ekeoha Shopping Centre Traders Association, Mr Friday Dimiri, pending the completion of investigation by the Ad Hoc Committee to allow traders volunteer information to the said Committee without fear of intimidation from the said Commissioner and the Chairman of Ekeoha Shopping Centre Traders Association by themselves or through their hired men.