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Traders sue Anambra govt, demand N1.5bn for demolished market



Traders from the D-line section of Umuokpu, Awka, a building materials market recently renamed Uwakwe Ukaegbu International Building Materials Market, on Wednesday, filed a lawsuit against the Anambra State government.

Other defendants in the suit, which has Messrs Anekwe Joseph, Emeka Madiebo and Echezona Nwajiaku for themselves and on behalf of the over 100 affected traders as plaintiffs, are the Awka Capital Territory Development Authority, ACTDA, Awka South local government area and the state Attorney General.

The traders are demanding N1.5 billion in compensation for the demolition of their shops, which they claim has deprived them of their livelihood.

The suit, which was filed on behalf of the plaintiffs by their counsel, Emeka Nwator, sought the order of the court to mandate the defendants jointly and severally, to pay the plaintiffs the sum of N1 billion as damages for loss incurred by them on the process of illegal destruction/demolition of their shops and goods, and N5 million damages for trespass.

According to Nwator, the demolition came as a shock. He alleges that government officials arrived at the market and destroyed the shops without proper notice or due process, citing Governor Chukwuma Soludo’s authorization for the project.

When the case came up at the High Court 1, Awka on Wednesday, the lead counsel to the traders, Johnson Ogbuzor, regretted that the defendants were yet to file their defense despite the fact that they had since been served.

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Ogbuzor, who appeared with Nwator and J.O. Obiasi, said what happened at the market was a rude shock because some government functionaries went to the market and demolished it, caring less about its effects on the traders who own the shops.

However, Ogbuzor claims the traders’ investigation revealed no such authorization.

He said: “They destroyed the shops on the pretext that they were rebuilding the market and claimed that they had the authority of Governor Chukwuma Soludo, but on investigation, we found out that it was false. That was why we approached the court to bring justice to the affected traders because it is inhuman to treat people like that.

“The reason they gave was that all the people originally allocated the shops had died, which was not true.

“It is unfortunate that these government officials took the laws into their hands by demolishing people’s property with impunity. We are therefore in court to save their business for them.

“I do not believe that Governor Soludo has a hand in this, which is why we want the defendants to restore these traders to their shops and compensate them for destroying their means of livelihood.”

The lawsuit paints a picture of a heavy-handed approach by the Anambra State government. Ogbuzor characterizes the demolition as “inhuman” and emphasizes the loss of income suffered by the affected traders.

The Anambra State government is yet to respond to the lawsuit. It remains unclear whether the traders were notified of any plans to redevelop the market or offered alternative trading locations during the construction phase.

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