The United Labour Congress of Nigeria (ULC) has condemned last Saturday’s illegal demolition of the popular Ekeukwu Owerri Market by the Imo State government.
It was gathered that bulldozers accompanied by a horde of armed security operatives, acting on the orders of the Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, stormed the and forcefully evicted the traders, demolished their shops and destroyed wares worth millions of naira.
Security operatives, specifically, military men from the Artillery Brigade, Obinze, deployed to maintain law and order during the forceful demolition of the market, shot indiscriminately into the air to prevent any resistance to the demolitions.
In the process, operatives allegedly shot a 10-year-old boy, Somtochukwu Ibeanusi, who was reportedly trying to assist his aged parents to evacuate wares trapped inside their shop.
ULC president, Mr. Joe Ajaero said in a press statement obtained by newsgazette.com.ng in Lagos that the government’s action “is a national eyesore that leaves a deep gash on our collective conscience as a people and as a country.”
He said by using the army, the police and other armed groups to pull down the market, the state government was toying with the lives of the people “without recourse to the rights and privileges of the people and to good conscience.
“We condemn this as barbaric, unconscionable and out of sync with the dictates of modern societies that thrive on strict adherence to the rule of law and natural justice.
“Every day when we wake up in Nigeria, we are regaled with one sad tale or another of the dubious use of the military to destroy the lives of Nigerians by those who are in position of authority despite the fact that the military are needed somewhere else very urgent in the North East to defeat the Boko Haram insurgency…to curb the murderous Fulani Herdsmen uprisings and others
“We are aghast at the continued militarisation of Governance processes and the deployment of high-handed and violent methods in attempting to settle disputes arising out of government decisions that the people considers (sic) wrong – headed or ill-advised.
“Any governor that cannot patiently subject himself to the dictates of the Law loses the right to continue in office. He becomes a threat to democracy and democratic practices as he places himself above the law through which he in the first place assumed office,” said Ajaero.
He said the government had no reason to have embarked on self-help in a matter that was already in court stressing that the government “has not only shown disdain for the courts but has also shown deep contempt for the people of the state and indeed the whole Nigeria.”
“Our members in Imo having followed this matter through and investigations from the headquarters of the ULC suggests that this matter is understandably in the courts pending adjudication,” said Ajaero.
He said the government had, rather, chosen to “circumvent this lawful process which the citizenry have subjected themselves.”
“We are deeply worried that a state government will allow itself to be dragged down this lane of infamy to unleash mayhem on its own people.
“We have unfortunately seen an increasing lawlessness and impunity not perpetrated by criminals in the society but by those who wield the instrument of power scattered all over the nation,” he said.
He said those in position of authority who believe that that they are above all and everything are a danger to democracy and social stability.
Ajaero, who called for Okorocha’s “immediate resignation” said the governor “has become a threat not only to his own people but also to Nigerians knowing fully that if he continues contributing to the destruction of our nation, Nigerian workers who we represent will be the first casualties.”
Ajaero also lashed out at the military for allowing itself to be used and called for the removal and prosecution of the general officer commanding the 36th military Battalion at Obinze whose officers were alleged to have been used in the operation.
“We demand that the officers involved in this act be prosecuted by the courts and if found culpable incarcerated. This action has totally undermined the office of the general officer commanding GOC.
“It is wrong for the military to once again allow itself to be used by wicked and self-seeking politicians to mow down innocent lives that they were constitutionally sworn to protect and who are their employers and pay their salaries no matter what the situation is.
“It is also wrong for the governor to have brought the military into a civil matter that does not in any way require the use of extreme force as the case has clearly demonstrated.
“Institutions of state can only maintain their integrity when they subject themselves to the rules setting them up. It is this integrity that guarantees their sustainability which can only be obtained by continuously being allied with the people.
“When the military authorities therefore decide to be used, they not only whittle down the effectiveness of that institution, they also undermine its capability and capacity to continue playing its role as the ultimate defender of the citizenry,” he added.
The ULC president also called for investigation into the “circumstances under which the killings and maiming of innocent life was carried out in a peaceful time (sic).