Enugu reacts as Hausa cattle traders chase police, govt officials with AK-47 over execution of court judgment

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Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi

ENUGU (Sundiata Post) – The Enugu State Government on Thursday night issued a statement condemning what it called banditry and brigandage exhibited by Hausa cattle traders who destroyed public property and attacked officials that came to execute court judgment at New Artisan Market, Enugu.
The statement was signed by Steve Oruruo, Special Adviser to Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi on Information.

Tension enveloped Enugu on Thursday evening as the Hausa cattle traders at the New Artisan Market attacked government officials and destroyed a police vehicle.

The land was a subject of a court litigation between late Chief Nwajanja family and another. However, the Nwajanja family was said to have secured judgment and wanted to execute it hence the fracas. However, an attempt to effect the execution was fiercely resisted by the Hausa traders, who reportedly went inside the market, brought several AK-47 rifles and chased away the officials and police detachment.

An eyewitness, who gave his name as Sampson Okorie, told our correspondent that the gun wielding Hausa traders also seized two bulldozers the state government deployed to the market and destroyed police Hilux vehicle

The vehicle, according to him, was abandoned by the police, who ran for their life when they could not escape with it. He said, “I was opposite the market when four police vehicles with about 10 policemen arrived at the place with people suspected to be government officials. Earlier in the day, two bulldozers were deployed to the area.

“Shortly after the police arrived, there were gunshots in the air. I came out from the shop where I was and saw people scampering for safety. The policemen were also running.

“The next thing I saw was gun wielding traders, who came out and blocked the NNPC end of the Enugu-Port Harcourt expressway and stopping vehicular movement, just as they set up bonfires along the expressway. When the atmosphere became tense, I moved out of the area,” Okorie said.

The state Commissioner of Police, Mohammed Aliyu, confirmed the incident when contacted on telephone. Aliyu described the action of the traders as unfortunate, saying  the traders had a meeting with the State Governor, Mr Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, on Wednesday night, when they agreed to move out of the market on Thursday.

It was gathered the state government took the mediation route to avoid insinuation that the execution had ethnic slant. Unfortunately as at last night, the news all over the town eventually took the slant instead of the real issue. The traders are trespassers and neither bought nor inherited the land space in question.

The Enugu State Government statement reads:

“The attention of Enugu State Government has been drawn to the brigandage, roguery, banditry and lawlessness exhibited by some hoodlums at New Artisan Market today being Thursday, the 22nd of April 2021, acting under the cloak of a demonstration while surreptitiously and unlawfully disobeying an order of Court. The social and mass media have also been inundated with divergent tales of what perhaps appeared a crisis.

“It has become necessary to make it abundantly clear that the aforesaid property illegally occupied by traders, particularly livestock dealers from the North, belongs to the family of a revered traditional Ruler and Statesman, late HRH Igwe Gabriel Nnaji (NWAJANJA) of which there is a subsisting judgement of the court to that effect.

“The Enugu State Government, Law enforcement agencies and the leadership of the predominantly Hausa merchant community of New Artisan Market were duly briefed on the intended execution of the judgement and its implications. In line with good conscience and utmost regard for human dignity, a robust plan was set in motion to resettle these traders whose importance to the economy of the State cannot be underestimated.

“While the leadership and genuine members of the business community peacefully and gladly leveraged on the alternative property benevolently offered by the peace-loving Governor of the State, some miscreants and hoodlums who had apparently reduced the property to an abode of criminality and immorality capitalized on the prevailing circumstance to instigate a crisis.

“Enugu State has a historic reputation for hospitality to her vast demography of migrant residents, which has grown stronger under the administration of His Excellency, Rt Hon Ifeanyi Lawrence Ugwuanyi. The Governor has diligently and consciously instilled the spirit of harmonious coexistence of law abiding residents within the state without prejudice to ethnic or religious sentiments. Therefore,  no brigandage, disobedience of court order, gimmick or brazen lawlessness displayed by a few recalcitrants will thwart the peaceful coexistence, serene ambience and thriving amity enjoyed in the Coal City State.

“In furtherance to his unwavering commitment to protect the lives and properties of the citizenry, the Governor has swiftly instructed security agencies to take absolute control of the situation and sufficiently punish anybody found in breach of the law. The Governor has also been briefed of the efforts and resilience of the Enugu State police command to unravel the cause, extent of the destruction and those responsible for them.

“The Government of Enugu State is saddened by the grave losses occasioned by this development and is determined to decisively deal with the situation .

“While the government of Enugu State shall continue to jealously sustain the cordial relationship with every law-abiding resident of the state irrespective of background, orientation, leaning and affiliation, it shall uncompromisingly adhere to the principles of Rule of Law.

“We therefore, enjoin the public to ignore any reckless, provocative, incendiary or inflammatory pictorials and sentiments fruitlessly bandied by unscrupulous elements to incite elusive restiveness. The general public are hereby encouraged to go about their businesses without fear of intimidation or harassment.”

Steve Oruruo,
Special Adviser to the Governor on Information.