Abuja market shut as violence escalates
Allowing Okada riders to operate after closure is discriminatory, says HURIWA
Following the death of five people and escalation of violence at the popular Dei-Dei market, in Abuja, Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Muhammed Musa Bello, yesterday, ordered immediate closure of the market.
Bello, who disclosed this during a visit to the market, to ascertain the cause and extent of the violence, also banned all trading activities along the roadsides and directed that all transactions be carried out within the shops.
He ruled out ethno-religious factors in the cause of the violence that engulfed the building materials market in Abuja on Wednesday, stressing that it was instigated by criminal elements for selfish reasons.
He said: “After an emergency security meeting with relevant security agencies, including the Commissioner of Police, Director of the Department of State Services (DSS) and senior management officials of the FCT, we decided to come here.
“And we came here specifically because on the social media, all kinds of stories are being circulated, saying there is an inter-ethnic crisis in Abuja with one tribe fighting against the other.
“I have come here and met the leadership of the market, I have met the leadership of the communities and met the political leadership as represented by the chairman and vice chairman of Abuja Municipal Area Council. What really came out very clearly was that this was an accident, which occurred when a lady on a commercial motorcycle fell off and a vehicle ran over her and, unfortunately, she passed on.
There was no communal clash here and I appeal to all residents of Abuja to continue to live here, as we have always lived in peace as the centre of unity.”
Accompanied by the Chairman of Abuja Municipal Area Council, Mr. Abdullahi Adamu Candido, FCT Commissioner of Police, M. Sunday Babaji, and other top security and senior officials of the FCTA, the minister met with the various market and community leaders and took an assessment tour of damage in the market.
He called on the community leaders to work at fishing out the bad eggs within their folds and help in bringing them to justice.
He stressed that a full scale investigation will be carried out by the security agencies with full collaboration of the affected communities.
While commending the efforts of the security agencies and community leaders for their efforts in containing the violence, Bello prayed for the repose of the souls of those who lost their lives and ordered the immediate closure of the timber market and adjoining markets.
On his part, the vice chairman of Timber Shed Market, Dei-Dei, Ifeanyi Chibata, said about 50 shops and 25 vehicles were set ablaze during the unrest.
Also, the secretary, Tomato and Onion Sellers Association in Dei-Dei, Dahiru Garba Mani, disclosed that four persons were killed during the clash in the market.
They both appealed to the minister of FCT to make provision for a police division within the market, with adequate personnel.
MEANWHILE, a civil society group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), has asked the minister to re-open Dei- Dei market, find a way to rebuild the infrastructures destroyed by commercial motorcyclists in the fracas or ban the operation of commercial motorcyclists in Dei Dei and Kubwa for justice, equity and fairness.
The rights group said it is offensive to the principle of natural justice that two parties were involved in a fracas, but the authority rather than make peace and create harmony and reconciliation decided to back one of the aggrieved parties because of religious motive.
HURIWA, in a statement yesterday by its National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, said the role of a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is that of service without bitterness or sectionalism since ministers are appointed for all of Nigeria.
“We do not want to believe that it is true that the FCT Minister who is a Nigerian will adopt controversial and unnatural steps that offends the commercial interests of his fellow citizens and let off the motor cyclists, who are largely illegal aliens from Niger Republic, Chad and just a sprinkling of Moslem Northern Nigerians, only because traders at Dei Dei market that fought with Okada riders are mostly Igbos from Southern Nigeria and are Christians by faith orientation.
“We call on President Muhammadu Buhari ,who constitutionally is the governor of FCT to ask his subordinate, the FCT minister, to adopt solution that won’t be seen as favouring a party.
The favoured party are almost 100 per cent Moslems, sharing same faith system with the minister.
“Leadership is not to bow to religious or ethnic sentiments. Leadership must be altruistic, nationalistic, just, fair and equitable and the Minister who has worked harmoniously with peoples of all faith and ethnicity for years, should not now be remotely connected to this sort of story of open but shameful partiality and crude biasness.”
Recall that trouble started at the market on Wednesday, when an unidentified female trader reportedly fell off a commercial motorcycle and was crushed to death by an articulated vehicle.
Other traders from the market then burnt the motorcycle, blaming the rider for reckless riding. Their action, however, prompted a reprisal from Okada riders in the area, who regrouped in large numbers and went into the timber section of the market and set it ablaze.