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Enugu State witnessed escalated tension yesterday, as an anti-riot police squad allegedly killed three residents while attempting to quell a protest by traders at Ogbete Main Market. The protest was against the Enugu State Government’s decision to lock up 106 shops and two banks.
In Enugu, traders voiced their protest against the sealing of their shops by the state government, as a consequence of following Simon Ekpa’s sit-at-home order last Monday.
Their reluctance to resume business stemmed from the lack of security personnel present in their areas to provide reassurance.
It has come to light that numerous other traders suffered from gunshot wounds, with different degrees of harm inflicted upon them.
According to an eyewitness account, the disgruntled Ogbete traders were peacefully protesting within the market premises to express their discontent over the unauthorised closure of their shops. However, the situation took a turn when the police intervened and began firing shots into the air.
According to them: ‘We are angry. To open shop is not by force. State Government should leave us alone to do our business.’
One of the traders, popularly known as Lasisi, said that ‘they have been shooting and killing people in the market here. The traders started protesting here because those whose shops were closed, because of the sit-at-home, were asked to pay money before their shops will be reopened. They said they will not part with any money and that was how the protest started.’
‘The protesters started making bonfires on the roads and the police moved armoured tanks into the market, started indiscriminate shooting and killing people. Some got bullet injuries and others got different forms of wounds. Teargas was being shot and pandamonium ensured,’ he said.
To quell unrest and promote a peaceful environment, the police have taken measures to station armoured personnel carriers around the market and key locations.
The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Daniel Ndukwe, issued a statement later, stating that although a comprehensive report was yet to be received, the situation at the market was stabilising, and the police were actively present to maintain a peaceful environment.
‘Normalcy has been restored at Ogbete Market Enugu and its surroundings, following the report of protest by some traders over the sealing of their shops by the State Government and their attempt to force others, whose shops were not sealed, to close theirs and the entire market closed. The initially peaceful protest was hijacked and made to become violent.’
‘Traders in the market and citizens alike have been pleaded with to remain law-abiding, peaceful and cooperative, while using approved channels to express their grievances.’
‘Full-scale investigation has been initiated on the orders of the Commissioner of Police, while further development, especially as it concerns reports of casualties being circulated, will be communicated as soon as possible, please,’ Daniel Ndukwe, the command’s spokesman, said.
Responding to the situation, Dr. Josef Onoh, former Chairman of the Enugu Capital Territory Development Authority (ECTDA), revealed that during the previous administration, he was part of the effort to persuade Enugu residents against adhering to the sit-at-home order, which, unfortunately, proved unsuccessful.
However, Onoh credited Governor Peter Mbah’s administration for their relentless fight against the observance of the sit-at-home order in the state. He went on to suggest that political opponents of the government might be intentionally undermining the Governor’s resolve.