By AnayoÂ Okoli
Umuahia – Butchers and policemen in Umuahia, Abia State capital, clashed Wednesday after a cop shot at a bus killing a butcher.
THE situation was a typical warÂ zone. Gun shots were coming sporadically from all sides of the ever-busy Akanu Ibiam/Library Avenue streets which lead to the Abia State Government House, Umuahia. The gun shots were so heavy that residents were gripped by fear as they ran in all directions, for their lives, not actually knowing what the problem was. Motorists and tricycles operators swerved left and right, in an attempt to escape from the raging shooting. This caused traffic chaos. There was confusion and pandemonium.
Time was about 9.35 am. The problem was a clash between butchers in Umuahia and policemen. Policemen stationed on the Umuahia-Aba expressway, around Ohiya area of Umuahia South Council area, shot into a bus said to be conveying butchers to the abattoir, killing one of them. Both the police and the butchers union have confirmed the killing.
Problem started when a demand for N50 from the trigger-happy policeman was refused by the driver of the bus. Some of the butchers claimed that when the bus was flagged down, the policeman demanded for N50 but the driver offered to give the usual N20 but the policeman was said to have insisted on N50. According to the butchers, the driver was about to drive off when the policeman shot inside the bus, killing one and inflicting serious bullet injuries on some other occupants.
Angered by the incident, the butchers made contact with their colleagues already at the abattoir who rushed to the scene of the incident and discovered that the victims had been moved to the Federal Medical Centre, located in the heart of the city for medical attention.
They, however, decided to first protest to the Government House, which is not far from the hospital, to let the authorities know what happened. As they marched towards the Government House, with the sharp machetes and knives, cutting down trees they saw on the way, mobile policemen, stationed in the many banks on the two streets, which may best be called bank avenue, perhaps afraid of what was happening, began to shoot to scare the butchers. The butchers abandoned their acclaimed bravery and took to their heels.
They all retreated to the hospital where their wounded colleagues were taken to for medical attention. The hospital premises were already filled with relatives, friends and sympathizers of the victims. However, sensing that the aggrieved butchers might turn violent in the hospital, especially when they were prevented from gaining access to the Government House, the police mobilized more of its men to guard the hospital. This angered the butchers who reacted by breaking and throwing bottles, which pieces littered the front of the gate. Some of them were arrested. However, calm returned when officials of government, specifically security aides of the governor came to the hospital, and with the combined effort of the leadership of the butchers, talked to the rampaging butchers.
While the peace talk was going on, there were cries and wailing in some corners by women whose relatives and husbands were the victims. The butchers insisted that the trigger happy policeman be produced perhaps for instant judgment. They also demanded for immediate release of their members arrested by the police. But they were prevailed upon by government officials who convinced with a promise that they would meet the following two days in Government House, and urged them to compile names of their members arrested by the police during the fracas.
There was attempt by the aggrieved butchers and relatives to attack Hausas in the city but this was nipped in the bud by the police and government officials who explained to them that the incident had no ethnic colouration what so ever. But the butcher said the trigger-happy policeman is of Hausa extraction.