Over 1000 shops in Ochanja Market, Onitsha were on Friday marked for demolition by Anambra State Government.
The shops were marked for violation of building laws and for being constructed illegally without approval.
TNC correspondent reports by physical observation that many of the structures were already caving in despite being under construction.
Some other buildings constructed on the approved for the market were also marked.
The exercise was conducted by the Anambra State Taskforce on demolition of illegal buildings under the supervision of the Commissioner for Markets, Mr Obinna Ngonadi and the Chairman, Anambra State Physical Planning Board, Barr Chike Maduekwe.
Speaking after the exercise, the Commerce Commissioner, Mr Ngonadi said the exercise was to intimate the market leadership of the plans by the Chukwuma Soludo government to rebuild the market.
He said the Ministry had received reports of deaths as a result of collapse of some of the buildings in the market, noting that the government is committed to securing the lives of the traders.
On allegations by the market leadership that the recommendation for the construction of the illegal buildings came from his Ministry, Ngonadi insisted that his Ministry has no jurisdiction to issue such approvals.
“It is not the prerogative of my ministry to issue approvals for buildings.
“Today, I am here with the authorized agency to give approvals which is the State Physical Planning Board, ANSPPB and at first sight, they have said the structures are not okay.
“The first interaction I had with market leaderships that I will not give approvals for constructions in any market for now.
“Now they have said the approvals were given during the previous administration and I told them that it doesn’t matter. Whether the approvals were given in 2018 or 2022, the fact is that it is totally wrong,” he said.
The commissioner made it clear that if any such approvals were given from his Ministry, it is wrong.
He maintained that government is not going to pay compensation to any of the owners, instead they will pay government for the demolition cost.
The ANSPPB Chairman, Barr Maduekwe revealed that government will send the Materials Testing Laboratory to ascertain the structural integrity of the structures and anyone that fails the test will be pulled down.
According to him, if any of the structures passes the test, the market leadership will come for approvals and the necessary amendments and payments made.
“The bad structures will be pulled down because they pose a great risk to the lives of the poor traders.
“”Mr Governor has said he wants to build a liveable, green and prosperous homeland and it will not be easy.
“If we are able to sanitize the markets which is the core of our commerce as a state, then we would have succeeded.
“”Unfortunately, when you come to do your work, they want to offer bribes to cover their impunity but we are committed to doing this job as directed by Mr Governor,” he said.
Maduekwe explained that government is not interested in punishing people but said they must carry out the instructions by the governor for the good of the people.
A trader, Odinaka Egeonu who spoke on the exercise, described the initiative by government as highly commendable.
According to him, the structures are part of the intimidation they face in the hands of some rich selfish business men in the market who do not want to do the right thing.
“We thank the government for coming to our rescue on this issue.
“These rich people have been oppressing us and when we complain, they use touts to intimidate us and beat us up.
*But today, we have a government with the willpower to do the right thing,” he said.
On his part, a customer at one of the shops, John Okoye also lent his voice in supporting the government initiative and urged the government to ensure that the original intent is carried out as planned.
When contacted, the Chairman of the market, Chief Bonaventure Muo said they are not going to fight the government, noting that they are in office as representatives of the people and will work with government to get the best for them.