LAWRENCE NWIMO in this report writes that Nkwo Umunze in Orumba South local government area is a disaster waiting to happen.
Located at the heart of the town, the Umunze market has been earmarked as danger zone owing to its poor location and which has been a major concern to the indigenes.
The market popularly called Nkwo Umunze has been in existence for over 200 years. It is arguably the biggest market in Orumba (both North and South), this is owing to its reputation of serving various communities and villages including some communities from neighboring states like Isuochi, Okigwe, Aro-Ndizuogu and others. The market sits conspicuously at the heart of the Umunze Town, a short distance from the Umunze Royal Palace.
The part leading into the market was decorated with well designed round-about bearing the giant statue of one of her illustrious sons, Ugochukwu of Ugo foam fame. Many sections of the market was partitioned to specialized products which added beauty and glamour to the market.
Often seen as the envy of other markets in the whole of Orumba, thanks to the booming population it receives on a daily basis especially on Nkwo market day. However, a visit to the Popular market on ‘Nkwo’ market day was an experience to remember as buyers and sellers troop in and out of the market with the road not spared as traders display their wares on the road, causing serious gridlock. Pedestrians and vehicles as a result were forced to shove each other for the meagre space left.
The Ogbommanu (Palm oil section) of the market is another part of the Nkwo market that witnesses over population of traders on Nkwo day as it is one of the products Nkwo is known to specialize in. Due to the booming population of buyers, traders of food items were seen littering and loitering the major road while some spread their wares on the motorway causing serious gridlock on the busy Umunze-Emwulobia road.
In a chat with our reporter, the chairman of the market, Arinze Anyaora, said that the market has outgrown its present accommodation. He further said that the buildings and space are not enough anymore for the traders which was the reason why they litter the major roads.
According to Arinze, “Nkwo Umunze market was established as part of the need to provide an avenue for people of Umunze to trade local products of yam, cassava and oil. At the initial stage, there was low patronage which accounted for the medium sized buildings accommodating the traders. Unlike every other market days, Nkwo served as the day indigenes of the town gather to sell and buy their wares. As we were told, the market earlier specialized on Palm oil, yam, cocoa yam and cassava. With time, the variety increased.
“Today, the market is blessed with gigantic shops and population which has brought the need to expand the market but unfortunately, the market has exhausted the space allotted to it”.
Nkwo Umunze, situated at the business hub of the town sits directly opposite the Owelle Ezukala- Umunze road.
” the market was built several years ago. The buildings are old and unmodernised. When it was built, it was in accordance with the calibre of transactions carried out in the market. But now the market is so big that it can’t even accommodate the traders that troop in to sell their wares”, he said.
Describing the dangers the traders are exposed to, the chairman who also deals on provision store in the market told that traders under his care that they could be harmed by impatient drivers.
In his words: “The market is overcrowded due to the heavy influx of buyers and sellers. The sellers you see on the road have severally came to me to ask for shop but all the shops are occupied.
“On the part of traders who display their goods on the road, Nkwo management team known as task force have tried to force them back inside the market but they obey today and disobey tomorrow. At time we felt pity for them because there is no accommodation”.
Heavy trucks heading to Umuchu find it difficult to pass through the market because the traders are everywhere. On few occasions it has resulted to accidents of various degrees.
Sunday Nwachukwu who sales detergents on a wheel barrow told our reporter his experience while trying to get shop.
He said: ” Shops inside the market are filled and none is vacant. That is why you see me here using wheel barrow” the same way he conceded that selling on the road is very risky considering the carelessness and impatience of most drivers”.
Also, Mr Michael popularly called Papa of blessed line and who deals on foot wears told our reporter that the market is filled to the brim. ” if there is fire outbreak in the market, fire servicemen can’t drive in because the market is Jam-packed and bereft of space for vehicle movement unlike modern markets where provisions for these are made in case of such occurrence”.
He also complained that Commercial motorcyclists popularly called Okada in the name of waiting for passengers constitute blockage to the free movement of vehicles and pedestrian at the roundabout. Trucks and heavy duty vehicles fall in their bid to meander through the meagre space left coupled with bad road. Most times this has resulted to accidents which has led to the death of victims.
According to the market chairman, Anambra state government has been making series of efforts to reshape the market and give it a new look.
He told our reporter that earlier in the year, the Anambra state government signed a memorandum of understanding with a private firm for the construction of an ultra- modern market at the Ugwuagbada new permanent site.
He said that the market when completed will afford people who do not have shop of their own to obtain one.
He also disclosed that the plan will accommodate five thousand six hundred lock-up shops which will situate on a twenty five point eight hectares of land. He also informed that the new site when accomplished will also accommodate showroom as well as other facilities like ware houses, car packs, fire station, food courts, Banks, clinic, public toilets, boreholes among other facilities.
He added that when the project is completed, it would be a tourist centre and a major source of revenue for the government and an employment opportunities for the teeming youths in the area.