Emmanuel Ugwu, in Umuahia
Tears have continued to flow amid allegations of looting following the destruction of the mini GSM market along Akanu Ibiam Road, railway crossing, Umuahia, by the task force of Abia State Ministry of Trade and Commerce.
The task force was said to have carried out the demolition exercise at about 1.00a.m. on Tuesday, barely a week to Christmas Day, thereby leaving the traders without any chance to retrieve their goods.
“I rushed down to my shop when I got the distress call at about after mid night but the task force team refused to listen to all my pleadings to allow me save some of my goods,” lamented Ikechukwu Maduka, a dealer in GSM handsets and accessories.
The shops constructed with cargo containers and some with woods and bricks were laid waste as if a tornado had swept across the area.
When our correspondent visited the scene located close to government house, traders were seen bemoaning their loses and cursing whoever plunged them into sorrows just when they were gearing up for Christmas sales.
According to the traders, they lost goods worth millions of naira, noting that there was ulterior motive of looting for the task force to have chosen to carry out the demolition at an unholy hour when people were asleep.
The looted goods, they claimed, include cell phones, power banks and other accessories, shoes, photocopying machines among others.
Aside from the GSM phones and accessories dealers some furniture makers and business centre operators in the area were also affected. The alleged looting by the task force was so pervasive that apart from goods, iron doors that caught their fancy were also allegedly carted away in the raid.
Maduka whose shop was demolished and goods looted, specifically asked whoever among the task force that carted away the iron door of his shop and the burglary proof to return them to him.
“I’m still begging the government to investigate what those boys did and return my iron, burglary proof and a bag containing the expensive shoes that I sale,” he said.
Ngozi Meribe, who shared the fate of other traders, said that she was prevented from salvaging her goods, adding that when they were served notice last week Thursday to relocate no specific deadline was mentioned.
According to her, the assumption was that they would be ejected after December 31, the same deadline given to the traders doing business at the Isi Gate city centre.
Efforts to get the Commissioner for Trade and Investments, Dr. Cosmos Ndukwe, to react to the looting allegations and sinister timing of the demolition exercise didn’t yield result as he failed to pick calls put across to his line.
Meanwhile, the harm has been done and Christmas certainly looks bleak for the affected traders.
“I don’t know where to start all over again. I had bought goods for sale after making Christmas purchase and now my shop is gone, I don’t know where to go from here,” Meribe lamented.