By Ononye VC

Market Women,some of who are widows trading at Pocket Layout Market Woliwo Fegge, Onitsha South Local Government Area, Anambra State,recently protested the alleged destruction of their shops and wares worth millions of naira by a family in Onitsha known as Ukwa family who are allegedly claiming ownership of the land.The women led by Mrs Anthonia Nnamele and Mrs Theresa Chukwuemeka, lamented that they were given allocation papers by Anambra State Government, before they built their shops, but were surprised that Ukwa family in Onitsha came to them in October 2021, to tell them to vacate from the place that they have won the government in court over the ownership of the land.Narrating the processes they went through before approval was given to them to build their shop on the land to protect their goods, like garri, beans, rice, plantain, banana, and other cash crops, from destruction by rain and sun, Mrs Nnamele, said they went to the Anambra State government during the Dr Jim Nwobodo’s administration, the Onitsha South Local Government Area authorities who issued them allocation papers and the then Obi of Onitsha, who also gave them approval before they started erecting structures.Mrs. Nnamele, who said that the cost of building her shop during that time was N180,000 and have been trading there under successive administration without any harassment from government officials or any family, until the Ukwa family came and served them quit notice with the claim that they have won the government in a court matter over the land.She said that apart from getting approval from the government, they also settled and got approval from Igbokwe and Ezeudoye families who are their landlords, and since they started staying there over fifty years ago, nobody has come to lay claims to the land, and have never heard that the land was in dispute.Also speaking 70 years old Mrs. Chukwuemeka, who said she carried the pregnancy of her first child while trading on the land as a young mother, said that she was part of the delegation that met with the then Obi of Onitsha who also gave them approval to commence building their shops on the land after approval was given to them by both Anambra State and Onitsha South Local Government Area.

A 75 years old man who said he is the care taker of Assembly of God Church he claimed owns a portion of land in the market, lamented the level of destruction of shops and goods belonging to the women he described as mostly widows who have no shops, but were allowed by the church to trade in the open place in the land.The women who displayed placards with inscriptions such as, “We have Certificate of Occupancy of this land from Government” Governor Chukwua Soludo come to our aid some people want to dispossess widows their shops,” “We cannot succumb to intimidation and harassment in this market because we are not illegal occupants” “Ukwa family show us court papers with which you won the government over this land” “We secured approval for building our shops here during Dr Jim Nwobodo’s administration”We gave them notice — Ukwa familyIn their reaction,the Ukwa family of Onitsha through one Mr. Tony Onyido,confirmed that he is a member of Ukwa family and also the family consultant.He said that they just took over what belongs to them but have been denied them over the years.He denied his family destruction of shops and goods belonging to the traders, neither did they beat anybody, saying that they went there to inform the traders who still want to stay there to trade to come for negotiation with the family.According to Onyido, “We contested the land with Obosi people and finally got judgement in 1968 against Obosi people, but were not allowed to execute the judgement by the government.“However, five years ago we went back to court and have been vigorously following the mater in both court and government and finally the government recognized us as the authentic owners of the land.“We made publication in the newspaper last year and gave the general public notice that anybody who is laying claim to the land should come to Anambra State Ministry of Lands to show ownership after 21 days nobody came to contest it and government gazetted it as our own.”

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