Ekiti’s Largest Market Razed By Arsonists, APC Blames Fayose For Violence
Hausa Traders Evacuated
RESIDENT of Ado Ekiti, Ekiti State capital woke up yesterday to find the largest market in the state, Oja-Oba, razed by unknown arsonists, heightening insecurity in the state. Since Wednesday, commercial drivers and Hausa traders have been engaged in a war of attrition.
Three people were feared dead and over 40 hospitalised. The situation forced Governor Ayo Fayose to impose a dusk to dawn curfew on Thursday.
But while the movement of the residents was restricted, the arsonists attacked Oja-Oba Market where over 200 shops and property worth millions of naira was burnt.
The market, situated directly opposite the king’s palace and adjudged to be the largest in the state, and populated by Yoruba traders, was razed at about 2.am in the early hours of yesterday.
Although the identities of those responsible for the act is yet to be made public, residents suspect reprisal attacks because the Wednesday crisis saw many Hausas lose their wares and properties. Reacting, the Chief Press Secretary to Fayose, Mr. Idowu Adelusi, said the government would conduct a thorough investigation and bring those responsible to justice.
When newsmen visited the burnt market in the early hours of yesterday, owners of the affected stalls were seen wailing and lamenting their loses amidst heavy presence of armed soldiers and mobile policemen. It was learnt that as early as 7.am, unsuspecting residents, mostly workers who were on their way to different places of work, got the shock of their lives as they were confronted by thick cloud of flames coming out of the market, situated at the central part of the city.
Most schools in the town could not open their gates to pupils while those which opened before getting to know the situation in town, had to hurriedly send back pupils to their different homes.Banks and other business outfits also shut down their gates.
It was learnt that men of the state fire service who got wind of the arson made spirited efforts to put off the fire but to no avail.
Truck loads of mobile and regular policemen as well as soldiers were immediately drafted on the orders of the state government to prevent escalation of the crisis and prevent massive looting. Some residents were seen being arrested by men of the state police command.
Fayose, who personally led a security team that included the newly posted Commissioner of Police, Mr. Etop James to the scene, expressed worry at the turn of events despite his imposition of dusk to dawn curfew only on Thursday. He however ruled out declaration of 24-hour curfew as being suggested by the people.
Fayose who ordered that four luxurious buses belonging to the government to be immediately mobilized to convey all Hausa residents (including women and children) in the city to a neutral ground called Shasha situated along Ado-Ekiti-Ikere-Ekiti road, said it is to protect them from being attacked.
He said the Hausa community would be at the new place for the time being, and would be heavily guarded by both soldiers and mobile policemen.
The Commissioner of Police, Mr. Etop James, said he and his men would ensure that the crisis does not degenerate into ethnic crisis. He warned troublemakers to steer clear of the state while law- abiding residents should conduct their daily businesses without fear.
Meanwhile, the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ekiti State said Fayose should be held responsible for various acts of violence in the state, noting the current spread of violence in the state capital had the imprints of the usual government-orchestrated violence to achieve a pre-determined end.
Reacting to the recent violence rocking the state, APC Publicity Secretary, Taiwo Olatubosun, regretted that Ekiti people were used to the government-inspired violent acts, which they experienced between 2003 and 2006 during Fayose’s first stint.
“We had on several occasions raised the alarm over importation of thugs who are quartered in the Government House. Since their arrival, Ekiti State has slid to the era of one day, one trouble that characterized Fayose’s government between 2003 and 2006.
Eminent lawyer, Femi Falana, also raised the same concern, calling on Fayose to send away his thugs to allow peace to reign in Ekiti State,” Olatubosun said.
The party sympathised with Hausa traders who it described as victims of government-inspired violence to create a sense of insecurity to enable the governor devise extra-security measures that would allow him achieve a pre-determined end.
The APC spokesman urged the security agencies to consider treating the party’s petitions on various acts of violence by the thugs allegedly kept in the Government House and devise a means of ending violence in Ekiti State.
“We recall various unprecedented attacks on our members, their houses, our office and tearing or burning down of the posters and bill boards of our candidates during electioneering campaigns over which we petitioned the National Human Rights Commission.
“After the elections, kidnappings began. Now is the time for urban violence, pitting the thugs against Hausa traders to create ethnic tension that has potential for national crisis, while at the same time the governor is planning to inaugurate the new House of Assembly on June 1 to create anarchy,” Olatubosun said.