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Traders cry out: As fear of Boko Haram triggers panicky security measures at Lagos Prisons

By Fredrick Okopie

Nocturnal life at the Prisons Officers Wives Association shops, PROWA, popularly known as Umunede, came to an abrupt end last week as a combined team of armed military men (Army and Navy) and their counterpart from the Prisons, the Prisons Armed Squad, PAS, stormed the place to enforce traders compliance to the 9 pm to 8 am deadline for traders  occupying front line shops at the Prisons barracks. But before now businesses, most especially bar and restaurant owners, operate up till 11.30 pm to 12 midnight.

The action is said to have been prompted by an alleged letter written to the Prison authorities by the Boko Haram sect threatening to invade the Kirikiri Prisons to effect the forceful release of their members being held there.

When Vanguard Metro, VM, visited the Kirikiri Prisons barracks on Monday, armed soldiers and Prisons Armed Squad, PAS, were seen mounting sentry at the entrance gate into the barracks, an unusual occurrence, according to those who have been living in the tiny Kirikiri town.

Two stern-looking soldiers were also seen patrolling the evacuated motorbike operators’ garage which also serves as a mini-market at night for petty traders.

The new security measure also entails the frisking of pedestrians and vehicles going into the barracks, but students were exempted. But Dillion, Karimu, and Shokonbi streets of PROWA shops were not affected because they are located within the industrial and residential areas of KiriKiri Town, in Oriade Local Council Development Area.

Some of the affected traders could not hide their displeasure over the impromptu security measures taken by the Prison authorities.

But when his reaction

was sought on the matter, the Vice-Chairman of PROWA shops, Airport Road Chapter, Mr. Ogbomo Monday, sounded rather non-commital as he said: “There was no formal letter informing us of the 9pm order. But we were aware that soon something will be done in respect of the security situation around the environment. So one  is not really surprised about the 9pm deadline they have imposed as closing time. The Prisons authority called me as the vice chairman and told me this is their stand that 9 pm is the deadline till further notice.

“It has drastically affected our businesses, especially the restaurants and the beer parlours; in fact, everyone of us feels it.

Armed squad of Nigerian prisons

“We cannot comment on the alleged letter written to the authorities. I think the security people are in a better position to tell you what you want to know. We only saw for the very first time that the Army and the Navy are working with the armed squad of the Nigerian Prisons to secure the place and we have noticed a drastic change in the security situation here”.

A  shop owner who runs a restaurant and bar, Miss Sandra Ezeoha, told VM of her experience since the quasi curfew took effect last week.

“The time given to us to close shop before our normal time is really affecting us. We want government to do something about it so that we can continue our businesses which thrive better at  night. When its 9 pm, we will be forced to close which is against our interest. It is not only the shop owners that are affected, the  market women who sell to us are also feeling the pinch since we no longer come around often enough to buy from them. In short everybody is affected in this small town.”

Speaking on the alleged letter written by the Boko Haram, Miss Ezeoha said: “That is what we heard but I can’t confirm it. But then there could be some element of truth in the rumour because  you cannot pull out the military (Army and Navy) just like that if there is no information warranting such action”.

On the cost implication of the action to her business, she declined to be specific on the exact amount she loses per day, but pleaded with the concerned authorities to revert to the former closing hour.

But for Benue State-born Mercy Odey, a business woman who engages in both wholesale and retail trade, her despondent expression was enough to tell that that business has been dwindling since the new security measures came into effect. She told VM that what obtains presently is that traders rush to close shop once it is  8pm in order to beat the 9pm deadline when soldiers and PAS come with dogs to hasten their departure.

What  happened, she said, caught everyone by surprise. “It happened suddenly, we were just told to leave the area before 9pm.   We beg government to extend the time to a least 11pm; it is from here we feed our families,” she pleaded.

Managing Director of

Fancy Beauty Salon, Mr. Kolawole Adeymi, in his reaction spoke comparatively of the security operation in developed countries and what obtains in Nigeria.


Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.