Jeff Amechi Agbodo, Onitsha
About 500 members of the Divine Shoe Leather Dealers Association (DSLDA) at Okolo Ichida Estate, Ogbaru, near Onitsha, Anambra State, yesterday took to the streets, protesting alleged ejection from their shops and assault by the leadership of the association.
Alleging that the leadership insisted that they must relocate to a permanent site at Nkwelle-Ezunaka, Oyi Local Government Area of the state, the protesters bore placards with inscriptions, such as: “We are dying in pain,” “Governor Obiano, please save us from the hand of the wicked,” “They sold our shops and want us to come to Nkwelle-Ezunaka as tenants,” “Leave our property alone,” “Say no to bad leadership,” “They refused to give us shops after paying,” and we don’t have shops at Nkwelle-Ezunaka,” among others.
Vice Chairman of the market, Okechukwu Nduka, who spoke on behalf of the protesters, alleged that for about one month now they were ejected from their market because they refused to relocate to the new site at Nkwelle-Ezunaka, where they would remain as tenants with higher stallage fee.
“We have been at Okolo Ichida Estate for about 31 years as tenants, until when we were allocated a land at Nkwelle-Ezunaka by the state government and asked to pay compensation of N2.5million which we did.
“We were told that we will pay N7million to the Nkwelle-Ezunaka community as land owners and we paid. Not long, the leadership said it had got a developer for the new site (contractor-financed) who pledged to complete building the market in three years’ time and that each trader will pay N410,000 and later increased it to N750,000, warning that if we didn’t pay, they will re-allocate it to other interested traders at N1.5million to N2million.
“All pleas that they should allow us to pay by installment for three years, as we are poor shoe manufacturers who have no money, fell on deaf ears.
“They sold the shops to non-members and now want us to go to those they sold the shops to and rent them as tenants.
“We said no, instead, let us remain where we are at Okolo Ichida Estate as tenants.”