Violent protests paralyse commercial activities in Onitsha

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BY VINCENT UJUMADU
AWKA- BUSINESS activities were disrupted Wednesday in the commercial city of Onitsha following violent protests by hundreds of youths over alleged killing of a staff of the Anambra State Transport Agency, ASTA, by a trailer driver of Northern extraction.

Elsewhere around the vicinity of the multi – million naira spare parts market, Obosi along the Onitsha –Owerri expressway, angry traders blocked the road for several hours over the closure of the market since January 3, 2014 on the orders of their chairman.

Vanguard gathered that the Hausa driver, who was travelling from Owerri in Imo State to Onitsha, was stopped at Ihiala for a check and when he failed to stop, an official of ASTA jumped into the passengers’ side beside the driver, apparently to force him to stop.

However, the driver sped off towards Onitsha, forcing ASTA officials in Ihiala to contact their colleagues in Onitsha through telephone to intercept the vehicle.

According to the report, when the vehicle was stopped at Onitsha, a lifeless body of the ASTA official, still in his uniform, was seen in the vehicle.

An eye witness who spoke to Vanguard said: “The trailer driver, who is an Hausa man was stopped by the ASTA people at Ihiala and when he refused to stop, one of the  ASTA men jumped into the trailer to direct him to clear off the road.

“When the driver noticed that the ASTA man had entered his vehicle, he zoomed off. At that point, other members of the team started making calls to their colleagues and this led to the interception of the driver as he was already heading towards the Head bridge in Onitsha to cross to Asaba in Delta State.

“When the vehicle was searched, the lifeless body of the ASTA man was discovered with his hands tied behind him and fresh blood gushing out from his mouth and other parts of the body. There were also signs of injuries, indicating that there was scuffle.

“On hearing of the development, youths at the Upper Iweka-Head bridge axis mobilized themselves to attack the Hausa traders selling goats and onions at the Head bridge area of Onitsha.

“The youths, out of anger, set the trailer ablaze while the driver was lucky to escape as he ran towards soldiers in the area who whisked him away in their vehicle to avoid his being lynched.”

At the time Vanguard visited the Head bridge yesterday, all the Hausa traders and other non natives had fled Onitsha to Asaba, while others rushed into the 302 Artillery Brigade in Onitsha and nearby police stations for safety.

Elsewhere at the Mgbuka, Obosi market along Onitsha-Owerri road, human and vehicular movements were delayed for hours when traders blocked the major road in protest against the alleged closure of the market since January 3, 2014 by its chairman who is simply known as Ifeanyi.

According to some of the traders, the market was closed on the orders of the chairman of the market over alleged harassment by members of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB, who, it was learnt, had threatened to take over the market to start collecting revenue forcefully in the market.

Worried by the continued closure of the market, some of the traders took to the streets and blocked the Onitsha –Owerri road for several hours.

They made bonfire on the middle of the road, forcing travelers from other parts of the country and Onitsha to divert to Obosi.

Security operatives have however restored normalcy in the area and smooth traffic flow resumed.

MASSOB Director of Information, Mr. Uchenna Madu however denied his group’s involvement in both the traders’ riot and the Upper Iweka protest.

Madu said the traders apparently reacted following their inability to attend to their customers from various parts of the country that came to make purchases after the New Year celebration.

Madu also called on the state government to look into the cause of the riot and bring those behind the violent protests to book while calling on their members and Ndigbo to remain calm over the alleged killing of the ASTA operative by the Hausa driver.

The Anambra State Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, Mr. Emeka Chukwuemeka confirmed the two incidents and said that no life was lost during the riots.
He explained that the situation had been brought under control by the police.

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