There was pandemonium in Abakaliki metropolis, as traders at the popular Abakpa main market clashed with revenue officials over Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) which allegedly led to the death of one of the traders.
According to an eyewitness, he alleged that the ‘revenue collectors’ were using the IGR collection as cover to close down the shops of some traders who took the state government to court over the leadership dispute in the market and regrets why they should kill a trader.
He also stated that the traders had gone to court to challenge the removal of the market leadership before the expiration of their tenure and imposition of a new intérim leadership by the state government.
He, however, commended the Nigeria Police who intervened and dispersed the rioting traders who were on the verge of vandalising shops of some of the market leaders working with the government.
Another source at the market narrated that trouble started when the Special Adviser to Governor David Umahi on IGR, Ukwuegbu and the Commissioner for Internal Security and Border Peace, Stanley Emegha led some youths to collect the IGR from some traders in the market.
The youth, it was gathered, were members of Ekubaraoha Youth Assembly (EYA).
“They came to the market and were taken to the shops of the traders that took them to court and they started closing their shops accusing them of not paying IGR.
“One of the sons of one of the traders entered into an altercation with them and in the process, a fight broke out.
“As they were beating him he fell on the ground forcefully and he hit his head on the ground and lost consciousness.”
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It was gathered that the traders, on noticing the death of one of their own, immediately mobilised and attacked the IGR team and beat some of them up while others escaped.
“They went to the shop of one of the leaders believed to be working with the government and attempted to vandalise it when Police arrived and chased them away.
“The Police tear-gassed many of them to disperse them and arrested many others.”
Police spokesman, Loveth Odah debunked claims that one person died in the clash. He noted that one person sustained an injury on the head and was rushed to the Federal Teaching Hospital Abakaliki for treatment.
However, the National President of AYA and Special Assistant to Umahi on Youth Mobilisation, Mark Onu, also denied involvement in the incident.
“I am not aware of that, I wasn’t there. You can go and ask the SA on Markets what happened,” he said.
He also said that no government official has the right to deploy his members for any purpose without informing him.
On his part, the Commissioner for Internal Security, Stanley Emegha denied that anyone was killed.
He noted that he, in the company of the Special Assistant on IGR, Martin’s Okwuegbu went to the market to seal some shops.
According to him, five shops were sealed for various reasons ranging from refusal to pay IGR to the shops being used for criminal activities in the market.
Okwuegbu on his part said about seven shops were sealed for not paying their taxes.
He denied knowledge of any fracas or death adding that the exercise was peaceful.
“We sealed the shops and left peacefully. I am just hearing from you that someone died. Nothing like that happened while we were there,” he said.
Mr Okwuegbu denied that the exercise was used to victimise some traders opposed to the government action on the market leadership.
“We served them notice to pay three times before going to seal their shops. If anyone says he or she has paid let them come and present their records and we will immediately open the shops,” he said.