By Kelechi Esogwa-Amadi
When the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, renamed the Port Harcourt Fruit Garden Market as Ogbum nu Abali Fruit
Market and also transferred its ownership right to the people of Ogbum nu Abali, many progressive-minded Rivers people and lovers of Justice hailed it as a right step in the right direction, given the fact that for the first time, it would give the owners of the land the opportunity to benefit from the project.
However, there are feelers that during the allocation of the shops in the Fruit Market, some government officials seized the opportunity to allocate some of the shops to themselves.
TPCN gathered that the government officials hijacked the shops at the front line downstairs of the newly rebuilt magnificent two-storey market edifice because of their strategic position that makes them to be considered as hot cake.
According to sources at the market, many of the traders did not know that the front line shops belong to government officials until the market was reopened two weeks ago by Governor Nyesom Wike after about two months of its closure alongside other major markets in the state due to the outbreak of Coronavirus pandemic.
TPCN further gathered that when the market was reopened, some traders, who did not have shops, occupied the front line shops and started selling their fruits there.
Attempts by officials of the market to dissuade them from using the shops ended in futility as the traders queried why the front line shops should be reserved for people in government who are not ready to sell there when some of them had nowhere to stay and sell.
TPCN learnt that on Friday, June 12, 2020, some state government officials, one of which was alleged to be a commissioner, having perhaps heard of the occupation of their shops by some traders, zoomed into the market with armed security officers and forcefully chased the traders away.
Then, a ribbon was used to separate and save the front line shops from encroachment by traders.
When TPCN visited the market yesterday (Saturday), the ribbon was still seen enclosing the front line shops. It was also gathered from sources in the market that the asking price for each of the shops is two million naira.
But other shops in the market, TPCN further gathered, are being sold between N1.3 to N1.7 million by their owners.
When TPCN tried to reach the chairman of the market, popularly known as Vasco, for his reaction to the development, some market officials around said he does not come on Saturdays. But when asked to comment on the issues, they declined.