BusinessDay
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Aba shoemakers beg Ikpeazu to reopen shut clusters

Shoemakers in Aba, Abia State, have appealed to Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, to reopen shoe clusters shut, Monday, following unwarranted attacks on firemen, who went to extinguish the fire in the area.

Ikpeazu, on Monday, ordered the immediate closure of Umuehilegbu Industrial Market (Bakasi Market) and Aba North Shoe Plaza, following attacks on officials of State Fire Service.

The firemen were on their way to extinguish a fire on a part of the market that caught fire, when some mobs, attacked them and destroyed their vehicle.

Okechukwu Williams, president,  Leather Product Manufacturers Association of Abia State (LEPMAAS) made the call, Tuesday, in his office on Faulks Road, Aba, during an interview with BusinessDay

He explained that the fire outbreak, which resulted in the attack of the firemen, happened outside the clusters, stressing that the attack was not perpetrated by the artisans.

“The fire incident did not happen at Umuehilegbu Industrial Market, neither did it happen at Aba North Shoe Plaza, it happened around the Watchtower junction, along the old express road.

“Observers on site said it happened when illegal petroleum products, by dealers caught fire through the exhaust pipe of a power generating set, which razed the buildings and destroyed goods”, he stated.

Williams begged the Governor to reopen the shoe clusters, noting that the incident cannot be directly credited to artisans.

He argued that no cluster leader had a hand in the hurt meted to the firemen, stressing that bystanders, who formed a mob, brutalized the firemen and destroyed their machine and not shoemakers.

He asked Government officials to reach out to people on the ground when events like the fire outbreak and the resulting attacks happen, to avoid making mistakes.

He also urged the Government to equip the Aba fire service and to restore the fire office in Ariaria, to safeguard investments in that business corridor from fire.

Chimechefulam Nwachi, chairman, Umuehilegbu Industrial Market, one of the shoe clusters shut, stated that the incident for which they are being punished happened in a different zone called “Udokamma”.

He observed that the Government was not rightly informed about what happened at the scene, adding that it was only sound to reopen the shops, having found that artisans from the shoe cluster did not attack firemen.

Obinna Dickson, chairman, Aba North Shoe Plaza, which was also shut, by Government, appealed that the decision should be reversed because it was not based on the true position of things.

“We’ve been on lockdown since, is it now that we resumed production that we will intentionally make trouble that will bring us into another lockdown?

“We beg on Government to look at this issue critically and see that we are innocent and that this situation will affect us and our families greatly, hence the need to open the market for us”, he pleaded.

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