A socio-political organisation in Imo State, Imo Network Group, has described as insensitive the claim by the state Governor, Rochas Okorocha, that no life was lost during the demolition of the Eke-Ukwu Market in Owerri, the state capital.
While condemning the demolition, the group, which said one of its core mandates was to enthrone credible and qualitative leadership in Imo State, noted that the exercise resulted in the gruesome killing of 10-year-old Somtochukwu Ibeanusi.
It added that it was wrong for the state government to have gone ahead with the demolition despite a court order against it.
The group, in a statement on Wednesday, said after investigation, it established that Ibeanusi died as a result of a stray bullet from “overzealous security agents” deployed to protect officials of the state during the demolition of the market.
The statement was signed by the group’s Board of Trustees Chairman, Chinenye Samez; its Global Administrator, Francis Chilaka, and the Global Media Coordinator, Ejike Ikezuagu.
The statement read in part, “Since it has been duly confirmed that a life was lost during the demolition, we condemn in very strong terms the state government’s insensitivity, total disregard and neglect for human life, as the government has publicly claimed that the demolition was peaceful and that no life was lost.
“In view of all the prevailing circumstances, ING hereby demands justice for late Somtochukwu Ibeanusi and others that were affected.”
The group lamented that the new site the government claimed that the displaced traders were moved to was still under construction.
It called on the state House of Assembly to set up a commission of enquiry to establish if there was a standing court order against the demolition, identify for prosecution the security agent who pulled the trigger and recommend adequate compensation for the deceased’s family.
It added that the House should prevail on the state Commissioner of Police to immediately release the deceased’s corpse to the family and commence impeachment proceedings against the governor if found to have disobeyed a court order.
This came after the state government denied that anybody died during demolition.
A statement by the governor’s Chief Press Secretary, Sam Onwuemeodo, disclosed that Okorocha said any project that would be sited in the market would be named after Ibeanusi.
The statement partly read, “Government has decided to honour Somtochukwu Ibeanusi, although the boy’s death was confusing because an action can’t be taking place on Douglas Road, and a person would die at Mbaise Road. No matter what happened, since that boy died within that period of liberation, the boy must be honoured. Owerri leaders are also mourning him; they wore black clothes even to Catholic and Anglican churches. If Owerri leaders can mourn a boy from Nnewi, Anambra State, that shows that there is something great about that boy.
“That boy is more important than any Eke or Afor, Ekeukwu or Ekenta. So, Douglas Road and projects to be sited there will be named after the boy, Somtochukwu Ibeanusi. The projects will be named Somtochukwu and the road, Somtochukwu Road, in line with the way all of us are mourning that boy. I will not go back to deity again by naming it Ekeukwu Road. Imo State has gone past that level.”