BY AGNES NWORIE, ABAKALIKI
Residents of Abakaliki in Ebonyi State have decried the abandonment of old Abakpa market by the state government, alleging that the space has been turned to a den of criminals.
The state government, in its quest to develop and decongest the capital city, had relocated the then Abakpa market to the newly constructed, spacious and standard market, popularly known as Margret Umahi International Market, Abakaliki. This was done during the administration of former Governor David Umahi.
Umahi did not only relocate the popular Abakpa market to about four kilometers away from the heart of the town, he also proposed that an estate named, “City Center Estate” would be constructed at the abandoned market place.
Owing to the delay in the commencement of the proposed estate project, some criminal elements have converted the market to their hideout and are using it in committing nefarious acts.
Residents also revealed that the abandoned market, which has now been overtaken by weed, is now being used for open defecation by some citizens who live in the area.
The United Nations International Children’s Fund had, in 2021, disclosed that Kwara, Plateau, and Ebonyi States had the highest rate of open defecation.
Worried by these developments, residents are of the opinion that the state government should develop the abandoned market space and build public toilets across the state if the state would ever overcome open defecation and criminalities.
They regretted that the urban dwellers indulged in the ancient practice of open defecation while other hoodlums had converted the four hectares of land to their den of evil acts.
In an interview, a resident of the area, Jacob Osisikankwu, said they were happy when they saw some excavator machines, bulldozers and tippers at the market, hoping that the construction of the proposed estate would begin but, unfortunately, they had discovered that some government officials from both the immediate past and present administrations were only using the place as a burrow pit where laterite is sourced for other earth works in some part of the state.
He disclosed that the people involving themselves in the act were ignorant of the health implications of such crude practice as the outbreak of cholera, measles, chicken pox and other related ailments was imminent.
He suggested that the project be included in the consolidation process of the present administration led by Governor Francis Nwifuru.
Osisikankwu said, “The entire space of the abandoned market, currently overgrown with grass, has become a refuse dump and a safe haven for hoodlums in the town who snatch people’s bags and other valuables at night. Additionally, the filthy state of the area has defaced the heart of Abakaliki town.
“The place is now suitable habitat for some dangerous reptiles, rodents and other animals which under normal circumstances, should not have been found at the city center. The area can be utilised as earlier planned or given back to the owners for development under private/government partnership agreement to boost the economy of the state, create jobs for the teeming youths, boost physical look of the state capital, among other benefits.”
Similarly, some residents of Gunning Road, Mr Ajah Daniel and Mrs Felicia Ede, alleged that some drug addicts were using a section of the market as hideout for consumption of hard drugs and other illegal activities and thereby called for the development of the area so that it would not provide an avenue for ritual killings and other fetish acts.
Daniel noted, “The place has become a home for miscreants to consume many unlawful substances. They are also using the abandoned shops in the area as their temporary brothels where they engage some teenage female street hawkers in sexual activities.
“The pieces of used condoms that litter the surroundings of the abandoned shops are clear evidences of what I am talking about and such acts could contribute to the outbreak of some sexually transmitted diseases in the state as not all of them will care about the use of contraceptive mostly when they are under the influence of hard drugs and alcohol. My request is for urgent intervention from the present administration in the area.”
Reacting, the Special Assistant to the state Commissioner for Environment, Solomon Obogu, who spoke with The Point on behalf of the commissioner, Victor Chukwu, said despite the fact that officials of the present administration were new in their various offices, the commissioner was making frantic efforts to ensure that the abandoned market space is cleaned up in the nearest future.
He said, “When the past administration ended, some of its contractors were affected, it is on this note that the refuse nearly took over many streets of Abakaliki but immediately my boss assumed office, he declared a state of emergency in the area. Presently, the situation is impressive.
“Pertaining to the abandoned market, I have gone round the place and I have seen things for myself and I believe that with time, he (commissioner) will do the needful in such a way that if you are standing at one corner, you will be seeing the other person at the other end, pending when the administration will implement its original plan for the area.”