By Douglas Okoro
Abakaliki, June 23, 2021 Mixed reactions have trailed the declaration of work free day in Ebonyi to mourn the late Commissioner for Infrastructure and Development, Mr Fidelis Nweze, who died on June 22.
Naija247news reports that Gov. Dave Umahi confirmed the commissioner’s death on Tuesday in Abakaliki and went ahead to declare Wednesday as public holiday to mourn the deceased.
According to him, all state-owned public institutions and markets across the state will remain closed on Wednesday as a mark of respect for the deceased.
Nweze, who died in an Abuja hospital from injuries sustained in an auto crash, was the commissioner for Works in Umahi’s first tenure (2015 to 2019).
He was later appointed the Commissioner for Infrastructure and Development, a portfolio he held until his death.
A News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) correspondent, who visited some schools and markets in Abakiliki on Wednesday to monitor compliance, reports that residents expressed mixed reactions over the work free day.
A parent, Mr Victor Agha, lamented the untimely death of the commissioner but expressed reservations over government’s declaration of work free day.
Agha said that closing the schools and other public institutions as well as the markets would adversely affect the economy of the state and residents.
He said that he brought his children to school at Holy Ghost Foundation School but was asked by security men at the school gate to take them back that school was not in session.
“Parents did not receive any official communication from the school management.
“There was no prior government announcement about the work free day,” Agha said.
At Annunciation Primary and Secondary Schools, owned by Catholic Church at Kpiri-Kpiri, Abakaliki, parents who brought their children to school were disappointed to find out that the gates were locked.
Two parents, Mr Godwin Okafor and Mrs Evelyn Elom decried the development, saying that the work free day disrupted academic and economic activities in the state.
“The governor has done well to direct that flags be flown at half-mast in all public institutions in honour of the late commissioner.
“But declaring a work free day and asking markets and schools to close was tantamount to denying people from earning their daily living and disruption of academic timetable.
“Many ordinary residents live on a daily wage and from what they make from daily sales from the market.
“So, closing markets without prior notice amounts to denying them and their families food for the day,” they said.
The duo further consoled Gov. Umahi, the state government and family of the deceased and prayed for the repose of his soul.
However, a legal practitioner, Mr John Onwe, commended the governor for declaring a work free day to mourn the late commissioner.
Onwe described him as the “brain” behind many infrastructure developments in Umahi’s administration.
“Nweze was a man of excellence when it comes to the execution of the mandate of his ministry right from his days as works’ commissioner.
“He was instrumental to the many infrastructure development witnessed in the state under this administration and this work free day is a well-deserved honour.
“It is in recognition of his outstanding contributions to development of the state,” Onwe said.
NAN reports that the Abakaliki International Market, Ophoke-Abba Market in Kpiri-Kpiri and Ahia Ohuru Market on the Abakaliki/Enugu Express Road were closed.
Many traders at the markets and prospective buyers, who were taken unawares by the government action, were seen discussing the development within the precincts of the markets.
Nweze, a renowned engineer, was arguably one of Umahi’s most trusted political allies.
He handled many infrastructure developments recorded in Ebonyi in the past six years of Umahi’s administration.