On Wednesday, a near-tragic incident unfolded at the Ekeoha shopping center in Aba, Abia State, as parts of the market collapsed, narrowly avoiding casualties but resulting in the destruction of commodities worth millions of naira. The incident occurred during the early morning hours, when buying and selling activities were at their peak.
According to witnesses, the alert about the crumbling walls in Zone 13 of the retail center triggered panic among shopkeepers and their clients, prompting them to flee their stores in haste. Within minutes, some shops gave way, causing significant damage to the goods stored inside.
Ifeoma, a trader who was present at the time, recounted the terrifying moment when the incident unfolded. She had arrived at the market to make purchases when the warning was raised, leading to a chaotic rush to safety. While no lives were lost, many traders were devastated by the loss of their valuable merchandise.
In the aftermath of the incident, some traders expressed gratitude for their fortunate escape, while others lamented the destruction of their goods. Blame was directed at the contractors responsible for erecting the shops, with accusations of shoddy workmanship that culminated in the catastrophic collapse.
Governor Alex Otti extended his condolences to the affected traders and promptly dispatched the Commissioner for Information and Culture, Okey Kanu, along with his Special Assistant on Aba Regeneration, Uche Ukeje, to conduct an on-the-spot evaluation of the situation. Governor Otti’s statement, signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Kazie Uko, attributed the incident to the alleged greed of former State officials who allowed the construction of additional structures on existing floors without considering the potential risks.
In response to the incident, Governor Otti ordered the immediate evacuation and sealing off of the collapsed portions of the market. Additionally, integrity tests will be conducted on the remaining stores in the market to assess their safety and structural stability.
The unfortunate collapse at Ekeoha market came just eleven days after the devastating fire incident at the famed Powerline market in Aba, which also resulted in the destruction of merchandise worth millions of Naira.
Reports indicate that concerns about the scope and quality of job delivery at Ekeoha Market had been raised earlier, leading some traders to take action against a government official and a former market chairman. The traders accused them of haphazardly adding new shops onto existing structures, further exacerbating the safety risks within the market premises.
As investigations and assessments continue, the focus remains on providing support to the affected traders and implementing measures to prevent similar incidents in the future. The state government’s response to this disaster highlights the need for stringent oversight and adherence to safety standards in construction and infrastructure development.