Scores injured, cars vandalised as two Delta communities turn market to ‘war scene’
Scores of people were yesterday injured and many vehicles vandalised in a protracted gun duel between youths of Ekuigbo and Iwhreko communities of Ughelli North local government area, Delta State, over ownership of the land where the Ughelli Main Market is situated.
The Guardian gathered that both communities have for decades laid claim to the ownership of the land where the market is located and have severally fought over rights to collect levies at the expansive market.
According to a senior police officer at the Ughelli Police Station, the shooting started in the morning but died down when soldiers and policemen arrived at the scene to disperse the armed youths.
However, at about 3:47p.m. the staccato burst of AK-47 assault riffles rang out for a long time as the youths battled over control of the market. The gunshots could be heard all over Ughelli township as people panicked and abandoned the market and adjoining areas. A building used by one of the communities’ youth body as office was torched, with many vehicles destroyed.
When contacted, the Delta State police command spokesperson, DSP Andrew Aniamaka, said he was in a meeting and should be contacted again after 15 minutes. However, when his number was called again after 15 minutes, a lady police officer picked the call and requested to know what our correspondent wanted
When she was asked to provide information on the heavy shooting at the Ughelli market, she said she was in a meeting that our correspondent should call back in an hour’s time again. When urged further to provide details on the incident as the deadline to file the report had passed, she simply hung up.
However, a senior police officer who spoke with The Guardian at the A Division police station, but who does not want his name in print, said they had documented what caused the exchange of gunfire and forwarded same to the police headquarters in Asaba, but the police spokesperson, Aniamaka would not give these details.
He said many people sustained various degrees of gun wounds and were being treated at undisclosed hospitals.
The Guardian gathered that early this year, the youth leader of Iwhreko community was killed over collection of levies at the market. It was also learnt that heavy shooting that injured a lot of people was a show of strength by youths of both communities to decide who would control the market.
However, the Commander of the 222 Battalion, Major Yusuf Morouf, said he was unaware of any shooting. He said when the crisis started, the youths blocked the roads to the market and set fire to tires but soldiers were dispatched to the scene and they cleared the roads.
When our correspondent told him that he physical witnessed the heavy shooting, he promised to investigate and get back to him.