From TONY JOHN, Port Harcourt


Rivers State Governor, Siminalayi Fubara, has urged all original owners of shops at the Mile One (Rumuwoji) Market in Port Harcourt to subject themselves to the ongoing verification exercise for proper capturing and eventual allocation of shops.


Governor Fubara gave the advise when some aggrieved traders, organised as ‘Mile One (Rumuwoji) Market Phase 2 Genuine Shop Owners Affected by 2013 Inferno’ came on a peaceful protest march to Government House in Port Harcourt on Monday.


The group was received by the Head of Rivers State Civil Service, George Nwaeke, on behalf of Governor Fubara.


While appealing to members of the group not to despair, Governor Fubara asked them to go back and work with the Rivers State Government Reconciliation Committee on Lockup Shops at Mile One (Rumuwoji) Market, which had been empowered to address the contending issues.


Governor Fubara stated that the committee will work with information that they have, which is why every claimant must appear before them for proper verification and their proof of ownership confirmed.


He said: “We are aware of the problems in Mile One Market. We may not know all the details off-hand, but one thing that I can assure you is that, as you have alluded here also, the Governor has come to ensure that there is peace and that you people have your means of livelihood handed back to you.


“The issue of Mile One Market, honestly speaking, Government is giving it a very good attention. This committee is Rivers State Government Committee. If you suspect any bias, let us know or approach the committee members, we will address you very well.


“But, what we will not allow is where our State will now be tilted to a place of violent protests. So, what I want to tell you is that, as the committee has started the process, we will continue with that process, fine-tune it where ever we think that, maybe, the process is not very good.”

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Governor Fubara emphasised: “So, my assurance to you is that this committee will live up to expectation. Whatever this committee will do, will stand the test of time.


“Honestly speaking, the number of people that might be shop owners there, not the entire 100 percent of them will get. But, be sure that a very large percentage will get. I can assure you that.”


Also speaking, the Chairman of Rivers State Government Reconciliation Committee on Lockup Shops at Mile One (Rumuwoji) Market, Mrs Ibiwari Clapton-Ogolo, who is also the solicitor general and permanent secretary of the Ministry of Justice, said there was no need for the apprehension expressed by the group.


Mrs. Clapton-Ogolo pointed out that the committee has the mandate to accommodate all complaints, verify every claim and ensure that the original owners, those who took government to court, will be the first to be allocated shops before attending to others.


She, however, insisted that if the group of original owners of shops refuses to subject themselves to the ongoing process, they will be jeopardizing their position because the exercise will be stalled for no reason.


Speaking for the group, Mr. Wariso Soso Soberekon, said they were afraid that the process has ignored their plight, and designed to short-change them by denying them the chance to be reallocated their shops.


He noted this is because the names that appeared in the newspaper publications, the basis for the public invitation of claimants, did not include their names.


Mr. Soberekon insisted that they were assured that when allocation would be made, the original owners of shops will not be subjected to balloting or made to compete through any qualifying exercise to regain their shops.