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DELTA STATE: CRISIS BREWS OVER PLANNED RELOCATION OF UGHELLI MARKET AS MARKET WOMEN PARALYSE BUSINESS IN UGHELLI

July 30, 2013

The once peaceful Ughelli community of, Delta State seems to be at the verge of bloody crisis as market women are preparing for a battle against Delta state government following the stiff stance of Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan’s led government to forcefully evict traders, demolish and relocate the over 50 years old popular Ughelli Goods Market to another community, an action which has received wide condemnations from women across the state.

As the state government action continues to generate more tension in the area, youths in the area and most affected traders, mainly widows, single mothers and petty traders have vowed to resist all means to evict traders or to demolish and relocate them to any part of the metropolis. Economic and social activities has in the last two days grounded as stores and businesses shut down in solidarity with the Ughelli Market women to protest the planned eviction, demolition and relocation of the only market owned by the Kingdom.

Making their stance known during the peaceful protest, the women noted that the Ughelli market has been on existence and known for over 50 years, adding if re-allocated customers would find it difficult to access the new market place. They argued that if relocated traders from neighbouring communities like Ekakpamre, Ufuoma, Eruemukohwarien, Effurun-Otor and several traders who have been partronising the Ughelli main market would not be able to access it.

“Re-allotment of the Ughelli-Ogor modern market has only brought disharmony to the citizens as there is conflict of allocation of the stores in the Ughelli-Ogor market. The action will engender poverty which has continuously worn the woman face in Nigeria and Africa at large. The amount of economic loss is enormous because we women run our businesses on micro-credit and loans from micro-finance and commercial banks, and we service these loans with quick turn –over from their businesses,” one of the market women complained to Urhobotoday.

According to the visibly angry women, “if the move is not halted, the education of their children will be put to a halt as the new market location has no schools around it. Many of us have over 6 children each who attend various schools around Iwreko-and Ekiugbo, and the we will leave our stalls to carry or collect our children after school hours.

“The site is located at a high expressway (East –West Road, under Construction) which makes it difficult for we the mothers and our children to access. We therefore call the Delta state government to engage in a wider consultation to enable participation of all relevant stakeholders in order to get their voices and concerns.”

The women in their large number on Sunday stormed the Royal Chapel of Ughelli Kingdom for prayers and consultations where a communiqué on the position of the women was presented to the monarch of Ughelli kingdom.

“We are using this medium to call on the Governor Uduaghan’s led government to as a matter of importance stay action on the threatened eviction, demolition and relocation of Ughelli goods market because the adverse socio-economic consequences and impact that it will create will be too difficult for the state government to handle,” the women displaying placards with different inscription lamented.

Meanwhile, a Non Governmental Organization (NGO), the Niger Delta Women’s Movement for Peace and Development (NDWPD) has tagged the state government “Violator” of women’s rights as a result of the planned action of the Delta state government which it described as mere wickedness.

In a press statement on their position in the matter signed by the group’s National President, Ambassador Caroline Usikpedo-Omoniye and made available to Urhobotoday described the planned action as mere wickedness and gross violation of human, social and economic rights of the market women.

“The Delta state government planned action on the Ughelli Goods Market, it’s nothing but mere wickedness, unlawful, unethical and a violation of Rights of the traders especially the market women who are the majority in the goods market and it lacks citizens’ engagement and participation. The stakeholders and traders are not involved in the exercise,” the statement maintained.

The release which is titled “Niger Delta Women’s Movement for Peace and Development (NDWPD) call on Delta State Government to stay action on the planned Demolition of the Ughelli Goods Market” explained that “The rights of the market women and other people will be infringed upon should government chose to use any forceful means in evicting the market women or bringing down the market since the women sell their goods in the market and any disruption will lead to loss of income , properties and even lives.”

According to National President NDWPD who is also the Ambassador representing the International Human Rights Commission (IHRC) for women Empowerment in Nigeria “If government wishes to rebuild the market as they claim, the women are ready to relocate to a temporary site which will be provided by the Iwhreko community and the Ughelli Kingdom within the locality and upon proper documentation.”

The Group further stated that the ultra modern market was yet to be completed as there are no ceilings and vital amenities, stressing that the completion has been fraudulently signed on paper. They argued that with the relocation, over 800 women would be made vulnerable as most of the stalls are allocated to political office holders who intend to hire the stalls for the women at higher rate.

“We urge the government to come to the roundtable to evaluate the extent of loss of income, economic activities and livelihoods that this action will pose. The new market stalls has been allotted on 3 occasions and to 3 different persons and this is causing serious fight among the women.” the statement added.

While lamenting that the state government did not deemed fit to consult with the women, neither was there any consideration on the impact this action will pose to the women and their children who forms the majority of the traders, the group opined that Ogor is a kingdom that requires a market for its citizens, while the Iwhreko Market is the major market for Ughelli Kingdom and should not be taken away.

“We urge the government to come to the roundtable to evaluate the extent of loss of income, economic activities and livelihoods that this action will pose. The new market stalls has been allotted on three occasions and to three different persons and this is causing serious fight among the women. Based on the plans for the relocation, the Ughelli Kingdom and Iwhreko community gave an option to provide a temporary site, which the government has rejected. The politicians have interest to rent the new stores at a high cost to the market women. A clear example is the outrageous fees of N30, 000 / year imposed on the traders, against the initial N1, 500 paid by them yearly.”

Delta state government had last month issued an ultimatum asking the women to relocate to the Ogor market and failure to adhere strictly to the order they shall be met with forceful eviction while the market will be demolished and relocated.

SOURCE: URHOBOTODAY

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