Judex Okoro, Calabar
It was a black Sunday in Calabar metropolos as over 100 shops were destroyed at the popular Etim-Edem Park in Calabar South.
The demolition,which started about 6:00am on Sunday, was supervised by State Commissioner for Environment, Mr Mfon Bassey.
Speaking shortly after the excercise, Bassey said the illegal shops had altered the design of the park, explaining that the park is where travelers board vehicles to different destinations within and outside the state and not for shops.
He said: “I still recall in those days, when people used to load from Etim-Edem park to Onitsha, Abuja, Portharcourt, Lagos, Anambra and others states of the federation.
“But late in 2007, some persons decided to constitute nuisance in the park and the overflowing effect is that we started having traffic congestion within major roads in Calabar metropolis.
“People who were meant to be loading from the park now decided to create illegal parks along the road, causing traffic congestion.
“What we are doing is trying to bring a solution to the traffic congestion in the city. As you can see, the park has been cleared and all commercial vehicles loading along the road will now return to the park because they will have no excuse again.
“We issued the traders who were using the containers sufficient notice to relocate. More so, we carried out sensitisation campaign informing them of the planned demolition,” he said.
The commissioner said the ministry was working with relevant agencies with a view to allowing for free vehicular movements on the road.
Mr Eyo Ekpenyong, Vice chairman of the park, also expressed satisfaction with the development, saying that successive governments had tried to demolish the structures but were stopped by some individuals.
Ekpenyong commended the commissioner for carrying out the demolition, adding that the main aim of building the park was for transportation purposes and not for traders to occupy all the loading spaces.
However, some affected traders, who spoke to our corresspondent described the action as heartless and inhuman, accusing the government and their leaders of double standard and insensitivity to their plight.
One of the traders, Iffiok Bassey, said it was very sad that the governemnt that just celebrated humanity could turn around to visit the traders with inhuman action by demolishing their shops and in the process destroying their goods.
Bassey, who deals in fruits, said they were not given sufficient notice before coming to bulldoze their structures, wondering which government can carry out such exercise in Jauary when some traders were still recovering from December sales or when some people just bought goods on credit from their business partners in Aba and Onisha.”
Another trader, Mrs Elizabeth Okon, accused the state government of reneging on their electioneering promise to traders to better their lives if they voted for them.
In an emotion-laden tone, she said: “I voted for Gov Ben Ayade because he promised to allow and encourage street trading. But this demolition is against his promise to us and no compensation is given. Even our market leaders have betrayed us because they failed do protect us a; rather they aligned with governement agents in this circumstance.
“Please we beg of him to provide an alternative for those of us affected because we have no other means of livelihood.”