Jeff Amechi Agbodo, Onitsha
Anambra State Commissioner for Transport, Mr. Uchenna Okafor, has said that the reason the state government took over the land belonging to the Traders at the Nkpor New Auto Motor Spare Parts market was to sack criminals hiding in the area to commit crime.
The land was located along the Onitsha/Enugu Expressway, Nkpor, Idemili North Local Government Area.
Okafor described as ‘untrue, false and unfounded’, the allegation making the rounds that the state government had taken over the landed property of the traders, saying that the land actually belonged to the traders, but for the overriding public interest of the generality of the people, the state government had to convert the area to modern park to scare away criminals in the area.
The commissioner stated this when he visited the traders at the market led by Chief Elysius Ozorkwere.
He appealled to the traders to shun any action capable of bring crisis over nothing, saying , “We are not fighting for your land, we are not interested in your land.
“According to the survey plan, the land remains your land. We have not shown any interest to take it and if we need it, your chairman and executives have no power to sell land to government.
“I know it is the opposition that is saying that the state government has taken over your land. Every government has opposition”.
He reminded them that government has the power to revoke any land in the state and pay compensation if need be for the overriding interest of the people.
Okafor continued, “Where ever we think criminals use as a hideout we go and beautify the place. So in this your land we have plan to construct a park in it, we are not going to erect any structure there, it is to sanitise it, sack criminals, maintain orderliness, install lights and ensure cleanliness”.
He recalled that he was formerly one of them adding that he knows the terrain very well that nobody will tell him what happens in the market and commended Chief Ozorkwere as a good leader who has the interest of the traders at heart.
“This executive led by Ozorkwere is the first to claim ownership of the land across the fence. The first administration made the initial mistake of fencing the market because it means you have taken your own portion of the land.
“The chairman and his executives have come to me about six to seven times telling me that state government is encroaching on their land and that the fence in the market was cracking and about to collapse and that the trespassers should vacate the place to avoid riot that may result in death.
“That is why I am here to explain to you traders that you have educated executive that we are not taken over your land”.
He assured the traders that the ageing fence would be removed and new one be put in place, adding that when the motor part is completed thatthe interest of the traders as land owners will be taken care of”. Okaofr stated.
Chairman of the market, Chief Ozorkwere, in a remark, commended the commissioner for making out time to be at the market despite his tight schedules.
According to Chief Ozorkwere, “What we suffered in trying to regain our land was terrible and at a time we prayed God that there would not be any riot because the traders were fuming and we petitioned the state government as the encroachment was getting worse.
“These market traders were very bitter because of the encroachment that also resulted in the bid for the fence to near collapse. If it is our land but government is interested we discuss terms because we can not fight the government”.