Following the alleged shooting of seven traders at the Timbre Market in Umuahia, the Abia State government has withdrawn the Abia Vigilante Services, AVS, popularly known as ‘Bakassi Boys’, from the market.
A disagreement was said to have ensued between officials of the State Board of Internal Revenue, BIR, who came to collect the N18, 000 annual levy and the traders over non-payment of the levy and sealing of shops.
The Bakassi Boys, accompanying the BIR officials, fired shots which injured seven traders at the market. Angered by the development, traders at the market burnt the Vigilante office at the market and their patrol van.
In a statement signed by the Secretary to the state government, Mr. Chris Ezem, the state Government directed the Commissioner of Police to thoroughly investigate the alleged altercation leading to the burning of AVS facilities.
“Government directs the officers and men of AVS to withdraw from the market forthwith while the leadership of the market is enjoined to assist the police identify the arsonists.
“The impunity of burning buildings and other public institutions must stop forthwith, as arson remains a very serious crime against the state and humanity, which attracts severe consequences under our laws. Government will promptly discipline any AVS personnel who harass or intimidate citizens. Abians are enjoined to go about their normal business and avoid engaging armed persons in any fisticuff.”
However, one of the injured traders was said to have later died while the other six who sustained various degrees of injuries were receiving treatment at the Federal Medical Centre, Umuahia.
Speaking with journalists, the Chairman of the Market, Ndubuisi Nwogu disclosed that the traders and BIR had agreed on the mode of payment of the N18, 000 annual levy and some traders had started paying by instalments, as agreed.
However, he stated that the traders were shocked when the BIR staff came to the market yesterday and ordered traders to close shops. Contrary to the agreement reached between both parties.
Nwogu stated that the BIR staff of the revenue agency sealed all the shops at the market, including those owned by traders who had already made some payment to the agency
He further stated that the shooting of the 7 traders and sealing of their shops angered the traders who allegedly razed the Bakassi Boy office in the market and their patrol vehicle.
Abia State Police Public Relations Officer, Abia State Command, PPRO, Geoffrey Ogbonna, who also confirmed the incident, however, stated that nobody was killed, adding that the injured traders were treated in a hospital in the city and discharged.