An Owerri-based human rights activist and medical doctor, Dr Philip Njemanze, has advised Governor Rochas Okorocha and the Imo State government to drop the idea of relocating the Owerri Main Market (Eke Ukwu Owerri) from its present site warning that any such attempt would spell doom for those behind other plot.
In a statement issued yesterday in Owerri, the Imo State capital, Dr Njemanze, an indigene of Owerri Nchi Ise, recalled that previous attempts to relocate the market never worked because the perpetrators met with mysterious death.
The activist described the market as a holy side and a major tourism facility that could fetch Nigeria over $20billion annually along with other holy sites in Owerri and around Nigeria.
“It is a Holy site as a market place, you cannot relocate the ‘Sacredness of the market place. Now you can keep it clean and arrange it and improve access but not to relocate the market place.
“There have been previous attempts to relocate the market but it never worked. Legend has it that, each time relocation was tried the perpetrators died mysteriously.
“The issue here is that, what has been done by some criminal elements in the past has been to make moves to relocate the Owerri market, which they know would fail, but in the process they dispossessed many poor people of their stalls in the market place, to lease it out to new clients.
“This has been a recurring criminal activity at that market, and the Owerri community have repeatedly condemned such actions.”
On the argument that the market is generating massive filth in the capital city, Njemanze observed that the market like every other place in the city of Owerri is filthy alleging that the state government has done a very poor job of cleaning the city and elsewhere in the state.
Continuing, he added, “The entire infrastructure has fallen apart within the last four years. There must be a fundamental rethinking of the way we will handle the Holy City of Owerri.
“The entire City is a history monument of UNESCO World Heritage sites. We are making our case to the Federal Government and United Nations. It is first, a heritage of Owerri people and that of the entire World. Under the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, historical monuments or potential sites are all under the National Assembly.
“These historical sites once identified must not be relocated or defaced in any manner. If actions are taken to change the historicity of a site, that may constitute gross violations under the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“It is also regarded as a Crime Against Humanity, which is under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, ICC The Hague, The Netherlands.
“In our view as Owerri people what is going on in Imo State is a Cultural Ethnic Cleansing of the People and Sacred Places in Owerri. These issues we have raised with the National Human Rights Commission, the Presidency, the United Nations and international human rights organisations. We have made our case to the United Nations on the Rights of the Indigenous People of Owerri.
The activist further disclosed that the Owere people have already filed a case against the Imo State Government for violating historical sites in their community claiming that all the important historical sites in Owerri have been in one way or the other violated or destroyed.
He cited the demolition of the ‘Catering Rest House’ lately known as Imo Hotels, the first Imo State library built after the civil war and several other buildings by the present administration as cases against the Okorocha administration.

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