Four years after its construction with multi-million naira government funds, Amuzukwu Ultra-Modern Relief market in Amuzukwu Ibeku, Umuahia North LGA has been abandoned by traders. Instead, the traders have returned to Isi Gate road-side market in the heart of the State capital or taken up shops at Orie Ugba market.
The market which was built by the government to cushion the problems of traders, who were relocated from the demolished Umuahia main market, is now as dry as Sahara desert.
A trip to the market this week showed that trading activities were at their lowest ebb with just five traders seen displaying wares with no customer to patronize them. The five traders, all female told News Echo that it was the proximity of their residence to the market that made them to remain in the Relief market.
They also told the reporter that the market has totally collapsed in terms of patronage as according to them; corruption and lack of willpower on the side of government officials destroyed the nobel idea of the outgoing Governor in establishing the market.
The female traders told News Echo that despite the assurances by the State government that No trading policy would be enforced at the scene of the old Umuahia main market, the same government officials allegedly went back to allot spaces to traders at the No trade areas in Isi Gate.
They alleged that many traders paid as high as N50, 000 or more to Task Force members for a space on the road side at Bonny Street and Warri Street area of Umuahia popularly known as Isi Gate. According to them, many traders at Amuzukwu started suffering poor sales which also made them to abandon their shops at the Relief market and move over to Isi Gate market.
“Those who could not get spaces at Isi Gate relocated to nearby Orie Ugba market in Umuahia to survive ‘bad market’, said Mrs Theresa Ubochi, one of the five traders seen at the abandoned market.
“Some years ago, we co-operated with Abia State government’s directive over to move to this place. But the bad thing is that the same government Task Force that was mandated to ensure that traders at old market relocate here, went about collecting money from traders to give them space on empty streets at Isi Gate and look at the result today”, said Mrs Ubochi.
Also a butcher, who simply identified himself as Chimaobi told the News Echo that he suffered losses on several occasions while still staying at the Relief market as he could not sell half of his meat purchase which according to him, made him to look for a way of survival.
He vowed never to return to the Relief market for any reason as according to him, the State government was insensitive to the traders. “How can you lure me to this place to take up a shop and you go back and allocate spaces to traders at the former market.
Is it not double standard?, he asked. Also, many residents of Obowo Street by Niger road where the Relief market is situated lamented that the non-function of the Okezie Ikpeazu Ultra-Modern Relief market was a big loss to them as they now transport themselves to far places buy food stuff and other perishable goods.
News Echo discovered that the market now serves as a den for Indian hemp smokers and other group of criminals who use the market as a takeoff ground to rob unsuspecting pedestrians by early morning or at night.
When the reporter went to the State Ministry of Trade and Investment at State Secretariat in Umuahia, no staff was met on duty as Abia State government workers are still observing the No Work No Pay order by the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC. Also, the State Commissioner for Trade and Investment, Chief John Okiyi Kalu could not be reached on phone for comments.