Imo faces insecurity-induced economic downturn
Imo state is facing serious dwindling economic activities caused by the prevailing security challenges where fear, abductions, kidnappings, maim, extra judicial killings and unrestrained movements of security agents, all have combined to cripple business activities .
In the Owerri metropolitan council, businesses are facing downward movement as shops and stores have been partially closed due to fear. The big markets in the metropolis like the former main market at Douglas road Owerri which was demolished by the former administration of governor Rochas Okorocha, now a Senator representing Imo West in the national assembly, where there are still large number of traders is almost empty as sellers and buyers of clothings, food items, cosmetics and other business seldomly come out because of fear of being hit by flying bullets.
The Imo Alaba International market, along Aba road, Naze, a semi-urban town in Owerri North local government area is partially fuctioning. Selling, buying and other economic activities are at a low ebb at the time of writing this story. Business A.M’s investigations reveal that over 70 percent of the Alaba International market is empty, shops and stalls locked down.
The situation is the same at the Relief market along Egbu road in Owerri North local government area where food stuff dealers from the villages and hinterlands buy and sell in bulk and also retail rice, beans, groundnuts , onions, potatoes, yams etc. The Relief market is also where traders who go to the Northern part of the country to purchase in bulk and come back to offload and sell their their goods to other semi bulk buyers.
At Aboh Mbaise local government area, a neigbouring local government to Owerri metropolitan council, economic activities in the big, markets like Afor-Enyiogugu, Eke-Nguru, Afor-Ogbe, Orie-Uvuru have dwindled. Sellers and buyers rarely come out because of fear of being hit by bullets.
Those who trade on perishable items like vegetables, frozen fish, meat, cucumber, watermelon, carrot etc are the worst hit. Anthony Opara , a trader at Afor-Enyiogugu market near the Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport, has bemoaned the prevailing urgly situation in the state that has crippled the economic condition of Imo state.
“I have been in Imo state, doing my business for over 30 years now, this is the worst situation that Imo people have faced since the end of the civil war. It is becoming unbearable, and we have not recorded deaths of our youths like the number we are recording these days. Our economy has been badly hit and we have not had it so bad like this”, he told Business A.M.
Also at Eke-Isu Obiangwu near the Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport in Ngor-Okpala local government area, some traders who were seen in pockets of groups, especially women decried the conditions of Imo state and blamed the situation on the political class.
According to Ogechi Njoku “hunger is the order of the day, when we see we eat, but when we do not see, we sleep with empty stomach, our businesses are not going and fear does not allow us to travel to other states to go and buy food stuffs come back and resell”.
Also the hotel and hospitality sector of the Imo state economy appears to be the sector badly hit as many of the managers have continued to decry the loss of revenue, investigations by Business A.M. reveal.
In a chat with Chima Chukwunyere, chairman of the Imo State Hoteliers Association (ISHA) and managing director of Domino Paramount Hotel Owerri, said the security challenges have further crippled the already wobbling Imo State economy.
He stated that the hotel and hospitality industry bears much of the problem, as much revenue have been lost through cancellation of conferences, weddings and many events. In one of the standard hotels, a lady general manager who did not want her name in print, expressed worry over the worsening security challenges facing the state.
“We are in the hotel and hospitality sector, 70 percent of our guests come from other states in the federation and some outside the country, because they see Owerri as a peaceful town .But since the start of the collapse of security situation, resulting to arson, abductions and killings, patronage has declined as a lot of guests have stopped coming, room bookings, halls for meetings and conferences have been cancelled”, he added.
In a telephone phone chat with Anthony Okolie, the general manager of Regisgate Hotel limited, Owerri, who is also the general secretary, Imo State Hoteliers Association (ISHA), said the hotel sector has been badly affected because of the security challenges as bookings for conferences, meetings etc have all been cancelled and put on hold.
Nigerian Export Promotion Council, (NEPC) in Owerri, in conjunction with the National Root Crops Research Council Institute (NRCRI) Umudike in Umuahia, Abia state cancelled a planned sensitization-training event on cassava value chain scheduled for last Tuesday June 1, 2021 in Owerri.
Meanwhile, Senator Samuel Nnaemeka Anyanwu who represented Imo East (Owerri zone) in the national assembly has urged the All Progressives Congress (APC) led government in Imo state to do everything possible to reduce the height of panic created in the state to enable the people move freely without fear. He said that due to the current security challenges, businesses are collapsing thereby making the people unable to meet up their financial obligations.