IT was a day of rage by aggrieved women in Warri, Monday, as scores of them took to the streets in protest over worrisome power outage in Iyara layout of the city, while market women at the Ogbuwangwe Market whose makeshift shops and wares were wrecked by bulldozers gave vent to tears as they disrupted traffic on the NPA Expressway.
The Iyara placard carrying protesters from the Generator suburb of Warri marched through McDemott Junction on to Warri-Sapele Road, disrupting traffic all the way to the Warri Area office of the Benin Electricity Distribution Company, BEDC.
Some of their placards read: â€œRationing of light, estimated bills, but no lightâ€, â€œWe pay for NEPA bills, we do not use NEPAâ€, â€œWe say no to bills without lightâ€ and â€œNo light, no bill.â€
Work at the BEDC office was disrupted till near mid-day as the women, chanting war songs, picketed the company, blocking its entrance to movement in and out of staff and customers. It took intervention of soldiers drafted in to prevent chaos as hoodlums attempted to hijack the peaceful protest.
One of the power blackout protesters who simply identified herself as Ms. Ozioma said: â€œAfter nearly two years of paying bills for light we have not consumed, we have no choice than come out and let the whole world know what we are going through.â€
The company, BEDC, Warri, Public Relations Officer, Edmund Gbiwen, however, dispelled the allegations, saying the issue was a case of communication breakdown.
Gbiwen explained: â€œWhat happened was that there has been a load-shedding in that area, not blackout. We ought to have fixed it the Friday before the protest on Monday. We were already fixing it while they were in protest. The problem fixed, some of their people now even came back to apologise to the Business Manager the day after.
â€œThe allegation of electricity blackout for two years was highly exaggerated. There was a time we were doing load shedding and this particular layout was usually overloaded and the feeder pillar was always burning. We now had to go and change it.â€
Simultaneously, market women at the Ugbuwangwe Market, joined by youths of the community, moved against bulldozers which stormed the market at dawn same day, wiping out all makeshift shops on the fringe of the completed but yet-to-be commissioned lockup shops built by the State Government.
The bulldozers, Vanguard Metro, VM, gathered, were allegedly responding to Governor Emmanuel Uduaghanâ€™s orders to the Warri South Council to clear the surroundings of the newly constructed market preparatory to its commissioning and subsequent allocation of the shops after the Governor visited the project site penultimate Wednesday.
The protesters who accused the Warri South Council Chairman, Austine Uroye, of masterminding the destruction said the action overstretched the directive by the Governor, saying Uduaghan merely called for proper sanitation in the project area towards its commissioning and allocation of shops.
When contacted, however, the Warri South Council boss, Dr Uroye, debunked the allegations, saying stalls were not demolished, adding that the market women have been assured they would be relocated behind the ultramodern market which will be commissioned soon as their services are still needed in the area.
Also affected by the demolition were several Hausa traders who have found home milling around the yet-to-be unveiled market in an escalating livestock and yam open trade in various makeshift shops which also double as their homes.
Ugbuwangue Youth Chairman, Mr. Popo Benjamin Omamgho: â€œWe were shocked when some persons came to destroy the only market serving the community without regard to law and order. We are using this medium to appeal to the Delta State Government to wade into the matter while I implore our people to remain calm as we are peace-loving people.
â€œThose who demolished the market misinterpreted the governor. Uduaghan only told the traders to trade outside the market in the next three months when he will commission the market and give it to the local government council who will in-turn work with the community.
Assistant Secretary of the community, Mrs. Mercy J. Okwetobosan said: â€œThe impunity in the demolition could cause youth restiveness in the community because some of the youths make their living from the market. Governor Uduaghan would not do anything that would cause problem in the community. The people of Ugbuwangwe are not miscreantsâ€.
Another youth leader, Mr. Ofoyeju Izuagie, said the â€œdemolition of the market affected over 5,000 traders whose wares were destroyed. This is uncivilized and we urge the Government to fish out those who carried out the action.
Addressing the protesters, a Senior Aide to the Delta State Government and 2015 House of Assembly hopeful, Mr. Vincent Uduaghan, appealed for calm, saying all would be done by the government to address the issue.