Pandemonium reigned supreme in Aba, the commercial nerve centre of Abia state on Saturday as traders at the Ahia Ohuu market clashed with the Aba Urban Renewal (AUR) Committee set up by the state government to sanitize the city.
Over 20 persons sustained varying degree of injuries receiving medical attention at various hospitals while not less than 3 cars have been burnt since the fracas started on Thursday.
In the melee, a combined team of security agents comprising soldiers , Police and the Abia stte Vigilante Services, had a hectic time dislodging the riotous crowd on both sides, with fracas taking place intermittently at several places.
Trouble started when members of the AUR committee arrived the Highlife area to enforce the relocation of the traders who trade along Clifford and School roads to the Good morning market, but were resisted by the traders who refused to relocate.
Eyewitnesses told 247ureports.com that the AUR team started destroying the wares displayed in the area, but the move was stoutly resisted by traders who attacked them. When the fracas died down, two tricycles, a Toyota Camry car and two motorcycles were burnt beyond recognition while over ten traders including the AUR team who sustained injuries.
On Saturday morning, the AUR team resumed work in the area , but were resisted a crowd of traders who started hauling stones at them which resulted to exchange leading to injuries on both sides.
The traders alleged that some of them who tried to save their goods received machete cuts and were hit with stones.
When our correspondent visited the area where the incident, shop owners were forced to close down even as youths mounted road blocks with bonfire around at the Azikiwe road junction while a combined team of security agents patrolled the area.
In an interview with a cross section of the traders, they accused the AUR Committee of hiring miscreants who unleash mayhem and razed their goods.
“We have been doing business in this area, but the Aba Urban Renewal Committee led by Solomon Ogunji arrived with some of his boys and started pouring fuel on our goods. Solomon Ogunji) asked us to relocate to the Good morning market. He didn’t even give enough notice. The following day, they came again after some people had collected N120 daily ticket and started destroying things again.
“We don’t know what happened between him (Ogunji) and a trader which led to a fight and it became a free for all. We lost cash and other valuables in the process. During Gov. Theodore Orji’s administration, we stayed here, but suddenly, the Solomn Ogunji and his team resurfaced from nowhere and started burning our goods. We want to use this opportunity to appeal to Governor Okezie Ikpeazu to call Ogunji to order.
“Even if they say, we must relocate; there is no space at the Good morning market. There is no road to the market. This is November, what they do want us to do? You can’t just force traders to relocate with rebuilding the markets and the roads leading to it which is now impassable. What the government should have done is to make it a gradual process and give the traders at least 3 months to comply with the order.”
Efforts to speak with Chairman of the Aba Urban Renewal Committee, Solomon Ogunji, proved futile as he failed to respond to repeated calls and text message sent to his phone.
When contacted, Abia State Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Ezekiel Udeviotu said police have launched investigations into the incident.