Hundreds of traders in Rivers State trooped to the Government House, Port Harcourt in protest, pleading with Governor Siminalayi Fubara to reopen the Rumu-Woji Mile One market in Port Harcourt.
The traders said they want the shops to be allocated to the original owners who were displaced following a fire outbreak in 2013.
Speaking with newsmen, one of the protesting market leaders, Princess Georgewill, also appealed for compensation to the genuine traders to enable them start afresh.
Georgewill debunked claims that most of the rightful owners of the shops were dead.
She stated, “I came to the Government House today to let everybody know and to plead with our dear governor, who promised to reopen the shops by end of January.
“Now January is coming to an end, there is the need to let government know that the genuine shop owners are alive. Just the way phase one was given to the genuine traders, that is how this crowd here are expecting to have their shops allocated to them in phase two.
“It has lingered. The reason we are here is that some men came here with a make belief that the governor sent them.
“They claimed that the original shop owners of phase two are all dead. So we came here to prove to them and whosoever they sold that narrative to that it is fake. That the shop owners are alive and are set to receive their shops.
“Not only to get into their shops, they should be compensated to start up the business. They need help to set up their businesses back.”
Other traders said the shops should be allocated to the traders who were there in 2013, when the market was gutted by fire, by requesting for their documents.
One of them stated, “I left that shade on the 17th December, 2013 when the market caught fire. I didn’t pick anything I have from the fire.
“Since then I have not been doing anything because of no money. So we are begging our governor to come and help us get back our shops.
“Many of us have become beggars. The government said we have to do balloting. I don’t think up to 10 genuine traders got the shop.”
He averred, “Now they are asking us to bring N5 million, N10 million, because they want to give our shops to other people. The people that they did ballot with don’t have papers.”
He pleaded that government should look into the traders’ documents and certificates, “because we are the original owners and they should release our shops to us.”