Reporter : CHUKWUBUIKE MADU
There were heavy gunshots Thursday afternoon at the New Artisan Market Enugu, a development that led to chaos at the Enugu-PortHarcourt expressway axis of the Market.
The situation occurred when owners of the land, who obtained a court order to demolish illegal structures in the area, were resisted by persons suspected to be hoodlums residing and carrying out illegal business at the market.
The New Artisan Market, Enugu, is mainly a livestock market dominated by people from the northern part of the country.
Enugu State Government had about two years ago chased the traders away and some persons suspected to be transacting illegal businesses and carrying out heinous crimes in the market but they returned after some time.
This time, owners of the land, after obtaining a court order came with some policemen to evict those who illegally built and occupied the market.
They were resisted by miscreants among the traders.
According to eyewitnesses, the hoodlums, who were heavily armed, shot sporadically for about two hours and chased away the policemen alongside workers who came to demolish the illegal structures.
This led to chaos and Pandamonium as it stalled human and vehicular traffic to and fro the Enugu-PortHarcout expressway on the market axis.
Also traders, pedestrians and motorists on that corridor scampered for safety.
One of the eyewitnesses, who did not want his name mentioned said the hoodlums started looting shops belonging to south easterners during the crisis.
“They blocked Enugu-Portharcout expressway and people are running up and down.
“Police came there and ran because they said the weapon of the miscreants were superior to the ones police have.
“Initially they said they were pursuing the police who were with those people that came there for the demolition.
“But now, they are burning tyre everywhere; they are burning people’s cars, demolishing people’s property,” he narrated.
Radio Nigeria observed that there were increased number of policemen at the Area Command in Abakpa, which was some meters away from the scene of the incident, and they were in about eight patrol vans and an armoured personnel carrier.
Meanwhile, confirming the incident, the Police Public Relations Officer, Enugu State Command, Mr. Daniel Ndukwe Ekea in a statement said the State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Mohammed Ndatsu Aliyu, had ordered immediate investigation into the matter with the view of arresting the criminals.
“The Commissioner of Police, Enugu State Command, CP Mohammed Ndatsu Aliyu, psc, has ordered the immediate launch of thorough investigation to fish out and bring to book, miscreants whose acts of violence led to the sustaining of injuries by innocent citizens, vandalism and burning of vehicles at New Artisan Market, along Enugu/Port-Harcourt Expressway, Enugu at about 4.00pm of today,” the statement noted.
According to the statement, the land the where the market is situated belongs to a family, who got a court injunction to evict the people in the market and take possession the land.
“Preliminary investigation reveals that the unscrupulous elements within the Market, became riotous and resisted the execution of a Court Order issued by High Court of Enugu State, authorizing the demolition of structures and possession of the land area covering the Market by Nwajanja Family of Akpugo in Nkanu East L.G.A. of the State.”
“It further shows that the unwarranted rioters set up burn-fires on the road, obstructed vehicular movement, injured unascertained number of persons, vandalized two (2) caterpillars that had gone to carry out the demolition exercise and set ablaze three (3) vehicles,” the statement indicated.
The statement added that “normalcy has been restored by Police Operatives, while fives (5) persons connected with the riotous act have been arrested and are helping ongoing investigation.”
As at the filing this report, there was heavy traffic on major adjourning roads in Enugu city as motorists dreaded the crisis area.