By Esther Onyegbuna
LAGOS—Aggrieved traders at Aguiyi Ironsi International Trade Centre, Ladipo, Lagos, have sent an SOS to the Senate President, David Mark, to check the excesses of the police inside the market, alleging that a serving female commissioner of police was using her influence to deprive them of their only means of livelihood.
The traders, who spoke through their solicitors Ugochukwu Ezekiel, in a petition to the Senate President, complained about unlawful use of the police for personal advantage, abuse of office by the serving police commissioner, intimidation and extortion of traders.
Alleging that the police boss had been frustrating their efforts to seek justice from the Senate, the traders stated that all efforts made by the Senate Committee on Police Affairs, that was directed to look into their complaints, had been thwarted unjustly by the inability of police authorities to send a representative to the committee after they were summoned.
They alleged: “They have been invited several times but they refused to put up appearance and even the chairman of the committee had cause to warn them, but they are yet to go.
“It is obvious that they are playing for the time of the Senate to elapse.”
Tracing the genesis of their problem, the traders said a long standing civil dispute between them and the female police boss and her son over the ownership of the market culminated in series of arrests and long incarceration of their President, Jonathan Okoli, and many others after they received about 150 police invitations from various police stations in Lagos on trumped-up and spurious allegations.
They said: “Presently, traders are on daily basis hauled to various police stations in Lagos upon refusal to pay the illegal levies and taken to court on spurious charges.
“Some of them have been in prison for more than one year without trial and all moves to effect their release were thwarted.
“The police we know is an organisation of seasoned professionals committed to the welfare and security of citizens.
“We are, therefore, surprised that the force could be involved in such wicked conspiracy against poor traders in Lagos State.”
They further alleged that after they attended the sitting of the Senate committee recently in Abuja, all their members present at the sitting were later attacked and brutalized by some hoodlums in the full glare of policemen inside the market for attending the session.
After the assault, according to the traders, they were also forcibly chased and evicted from the market and warned sternly never to return there again or they would face the consequences.
They called on all relevant agencies of government to prevail on police authorities to allow justice to prevail in the market, stating that they had been losing billions of naira and living in fear as a result of the crisis in the market.