Barely four months after the October 16, 2019, widely-reported Ochanja Market fire incident near Onitsha Main Market in Anambra State, leader of the Ochanja Market Stakeholders Association, Chief Oliver Nwankwo has debunked the Ochanja Market inferno claim, alleging that the inferno took place at Zik’s Ave, Onitsha and not inside Ochanja market.
Nwankwo who made the revelation, yesterday, when he led a team placard-carrying leaders and stakeholders of Ochanja Market on a demonstration to Government House, Awka, the state capital, to protest an alleged plot by the out-going Chairman of Ochanja Market Traders Association, Nwakibie Nelson Ojukwu to extent his tenure by two years from March this year.
While the protest lasted, Nwankwo told the Commissioner for Trade, Markets and Wealth Creation, Hon. Uche Okafor in an audience at the Government House, to warn Ojukwu from dragging the Governor Willie Obian’s name in the mud by claiming that the Governor has promised to extend his tenure as Chairman of Ochanja Central Market for another two years on Caretaker Committee basis, adding that those claiming that the October 16 fire incident occured at Ochanja Market were perpetrators of fraud.
He emphasized that the fire gutted some private buildings along Zik’s Avenue, but not Ochanja as widely reported, stressing that Ochanja Market shares common wall with Zik’s Avenue which had private buildings gutted by the fire.
Some of the placards displayed by the demonstrators included: “Ochanja Market Is Not For Sale,” “Come to Our Aid, Governor Obiano,” “We Say No To Tenure Elongation or extension,” “We Need Election, Not Caretaker Committee,“”Nwakibie, Respect Our Constitution”, among others.
Responding, the Commissioner, Okafor commended them for their peaceful nature of demonstration and pledged to visit the market, even as he berated the demonstrators for protesting against Ojukwu-led Executive whose tenure is still running till March.
He, therefore, advised leaders to explore all avenues of peace-building before embarking on protests.
It would be recalled that, after the petrol tanker fell and spilt its content, about eight persons including a woman, Mrs Ifeoma Obi from Awka Etiti, died during the inferno, while millions of naira worth of goods were ravaged, which attracted relief materials and cash donations from individuals and corporate bodies, including Catholic Archdiocese of Onitsha, amounting to N27 million, while the State government distributed a total of N100 Million to 700 traders who were believably victims of the inferno.