There was palpable tension over the weekend at the Artisan market in the Enugu North Local Government Area of Enugu state following an instruction by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi to eject occupants of the market, predominantly Hausa people, from the area.
The traders who claimed to have spent over 16 years in the market alleged that they were being harassed and treated like animals by the government.
It was gathered that Ugwuanyi had on Wednesday convened a meeting with leaders of the Huasa community and directed the traders to be relocated to a temporary site, citing a court judgement in favour of Citi Gas company as the owner of the land against one Sani Mohammed and others doing cow business on the land.
A day after the meeting with the governor, the market located along Enugu- Port Harcourt Road, was allegedly invaded by some security personnel and 200 thugs to oversee its demolition without prior notice.
A former chairman of Artisan market, Alhaji Adamu Mayiwa said the demolition attempt was however met with stiff resistance by some unidentified youths who sustained various degrees of bullet injury, including a woman who broke her hand.
“The market fence and main gate leading to the premises of permanent site were pulled down by the bulldozers, and some shops were destroyed by people working for the Citi Gas company, who were later chased away and had to abandon their equipment.
“Some passersby and private car owners were also attacked during the fury, and their vehicles destroyed beyond repair by the rampaging youths on Thursday, a day after the meeting with the governor.
“Burnt and destroyed cars were abandoned on the road,” Mayiwa said.
He added that over 15 police vans deployed to restore normalcy at the scene were on the ground till Friday afternoon when another crisis started in the area.
“All of a sudden, we started hearing gunshots repeatedly, making people to start running. A woman broke her hand while running because she was afraid, a boy sustained bullet wound.
“The next thing we saw were the bulldozers pulling down the fence and gate. We started asking one another why the demolition when the governor had given us two weeks when we discussed this land issue in the Government House with him.”
Maiywa said the demolition disregarded the sanctity of the Muslim Ramadam fasting period.
Also speaking, the secretary of New Artisan market, Ismail illiyasu Abubakar said he was surprised by the words used by the governor during their meeting with him.
Abubakar said an attempt to explain and show Ugwuanyi the gazetted land and Citi Gas Company’s portion of the land was rejected.
According to him, the governor said ‘I don’t care, the gazetted and allocation given to you people is invalid’.
He said, “The governor is deliberately pursuing us. They’re maltreating us. If you go to places like Kano, Kaduna and other states in the North, you will discover that lgbos have lots of investments worth billions of naira there but nobody harasses them like what they’re doing to us here now. They harass us like animals. Our people sleep outside like animals with rain beating them even though we’re fasting and they came with tear gas and started shooting.”
An Hausa community leader, Alh Lawal Mohammed Ayavgah lamented that efforts made to explain to the governor that the land belonging to Citi Gas company is a small portion which is different from the gazetted Artisan market allocated to Hausa community and others during former governor Chimaroke Nnamani’s administration, was cut short as he refused to listen to them.