*Say demolition without alternative unacceptable
The women of Bayelsa state under the aegis of Association of Women in Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises said they would soon hit the streets of Yenagoa, the state capital, to protest what they described as destruction of their sources of livelihood by the state government in the name of urban renewal policy.
Speaking through the state coordinator of the group, Mrs. Peace Oruama, the aggrieved women, who said they were not against the urban renewal policy, decried a situation where all the places they ply their petty trading had been destroyed without alternative, describing it as unacceptable.
They also faulted the claim by the state government that there are over 600 lockup stores at the Swali Ultra Modern Market where displayed traders could relocate to, noting that the said vacancies at Swali were stores with open roofings and were in mashy areas that could not be assessed by customers when it rains.
The coordinator of the association, however, revealed that the group has scheduled a meeting with the state government through the office of the Deputy Governor, emphasizing that they would be left with no option than to embark on the state wide protest which she said would ground all business activities in the state.
In an interview with our correspondent in Yenagoa, Oruama said “it is very annoying that the government refused to provide an alternative before the demolition although they have asked all market women and men to leave the Illegal sites.
“But an alternative could have been the best solution. You know, on daily basis, our mothers and sisters go to look for their daily bread. They don’t have any other job. Most of the traders you see in the market are graduates but there’s no job.
“Now, you are telling them to leave the market, to go to where? There’s no job. The Swali Market they are talking about is not even up to a local government market that can contain a state.
“Go to that Market, it is the commissioners and directors that have the shops. They would sublet the shops to the less privileged women in a higher price. How can they afford such shops? That’s why they go to those places where they can sell to feed their families.
“So, it’s very annoying. It’s like a straight bullet to a woman and her entire family. No woman will sit down and watch her children starving under this recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We all know that the economy of the country is totally down and there’s no job anywhere. Then you cannot go out there to do little trade to feed your family?
“I want the state government to really understand that these are our mothers, our sisters, they are our own blood. They survive from these little trades to bring up the great leaders you are seeing today.
“Most of the leaders also feed from the market. So, the government should come in and find an alternative. The alternative is this, the dilapidated Kpansia market that is being covered with grasses should be cleared open so that it can contain the entire traders in Yenagoa who do not have places to sell.
“It should be made section by section as it is in other places. Go to Aba, Ariaria Market, you will see different sections of stores with different products. This should also be done so that we can call it our modern, standard market.
“Another prayer is this, they should not use force on these woman because they are already depressed. Most of them collected LAPO money to establish their small businesss because there is no loan anywhere.
“We know our women, they understand our language. Just provide an alternative and we will peacefully coordinate them to the government approved sites with affordable price so that they can continue their busineses.”
On the 600 ‘available’ shops at Swali, she said “we are ready to work with the ministry of information and trade and investment. Let us go to the market and move from shop to shop so that they can use their eyes to see.
“All the lockup stores are occupied. The only place they may be claiming that there are remaining stores is the open roof shops. There are no doors. Even the ground floor is mashy. When rain falls, you can’t get to your shop. Nobody can take that place for N300,000.
“If nothing is done by the state government, protest is the answer.”