By Emmanuel Aziken, Kingsley Omonobi, Henry Umoru & Emmanuel Elebeke
•‘Our Mumu Don Do’ campaigner, Charly Boy escapes lynching
•Wuse Market shut; situation under control, no lives lost — Police
Gunfire in Abuja, as pro, anti-Buhari groups clash
ABUJA—Police shot into the air, yesterday, after protesters demanding that President Muhammadu Buhari should resume or resign, were confronted by supporters of the President in Abuja.
Musician, Charles Oputa, popularly known as Charly Boy, who has become the face of the campaign, according to multiple witnesses, was lucky to have escaped alive.
The clash happened at Wuse Market in the heart of the capital city. The market was immediately shut to avert further clashes.
The clash happened on the eve of the 100th day after President Buhari left Abuja to London for medical treatment.
Earlier in the day, presidential spokesman, Mallam Garba Shehu, had asked the protesters, who had protested daily in Abuja to go and look for work, if they had nothing better to do on the claim that the President satisfied every constitutional requirement before departure.
The protesters in a statement, described the attack on them as completely unprovoked, vowing that the group will sustain its demand on the President to resign from office if he was no longer up to his duties.
Sources said the group was set for a major sit-in today to mark the 100th day of the President’s absence.
Vanguard gathered that trouble started when some members of the Resume or Resign group approached the Wuse Market.
According to the source, Charly Boy and his group on arrival at about 10.30 a.m, were resisted at the main gate of the market by leader of the Market Task Force, identified as Musa. He was allegedly attracted to Charly Boy upon cheers the musician received from traders and shoppers.
Apparently embarrassed by the actions of Musa, the musician inquired to know why he would be stopped from gaining access to the market. Dissatisfied with the reasons, the ace musician began verbal exchange with the market officials which dovetailed into the clash.
The exchange of words, it was gathered, attracted a mob of pro-Buhari supporters who were said to have attacked Charly Boy and his entourage with stones and other weapons.
The mob responded to the visitors with chants of “Sai Baba, Sai Baba” affirming that they have no right to bring their protest to the market.
Charly Boy was said to have sustained injuries, while his car was badly damaged in the course of the fight.
The development threw the entire market into disarray. There was pandemonium in the entire market vicinity. Both buyers and sellers, who were already inside the market, scampered for safety.
Wuse Market shut
In the midst of the conflict which raged for about two hours, the Abuja Market Management Limited sought permission from the Federal Capital Territory Administration, FCTA, to close the market.
A statement issued by the Corporate Affairs Manager, Abuja Markets Management Limited, Innocent Amaechina on the development read thus: “About 10:45 am today (yesterday), the attention of the Wuse Market Manager was drawn to an unauthorized protest by a group, led by popular musician, Charles Oputa (a.k.a Charly Boy), who never sought nor obtained our permission for such activities in the market.
“The manager quickly mobilized his team of enforcers towards the direction of the market to stop the unauthorized activity. Before he could get to that location, it was, however, observed that pandemonium had erupted and traders and other market users were running for their dear lives.
“It was later discovered that some people present in the market at that point, who obviously did not share the same persuasion with the protesters, confronted them, and a fight ensued.
“The police was quickly called in to restore normalcy. The atmosphere was fully tensed; traders were divided along shades of opinion for and against the attack on the protesters and it became very clear that a full blown riot was in the offing.
“After due consultation with the security team, led by the Deputy Commissioner of Police (Operations), FCT, Wuse Market Traders’ Association led by its Chairman, Ralph Ikechukwu Okorie; Director, Security, FCT; C.S.O to the Minister of FCT and AMML Management, led by its MD, Abubakar Usman Faruk, it was decided that the most reasonable thing to do in that circumstances was to close down the market to forestall further breakdown of law and order.
“Approval was, thereafter, sought and obtained from the Minister, FCT, Mallam Mohammad Musa Bello, for the closure of the market for the day, to calm down frayed nerves, and the market has remained closed. We wish to solicit the understanding of the public for the inconveniences this closure may have caused.”
Vanguard, however, gathered that the closure was also prompted by the anxiety to avoid the conflict taking an ethnic hue.
Why we went to Wuse Market – Resume or Resign group
A Co-Convener of “Resume or Resign” Movement, Mr. Deji Adeyanju, however, denied that the group went to the market to protest. He said that some of the leaders of the group went to the market to see one of their coordinators who owns a shop in the market but were attacked by some hoodlums who were chanting Sai Buhari.
“Yes, our group was attacked by some hoodlums in the market. We only went there to see one of our coordinators and not for protest. Right now, some of our members were wounded, and Charly Boy’s BMW bike was damaged by the hoodlums.”
An eye-witness, Henry Akpan, a taxi driver, said: “Charly Boy came into the Wuse market with two vehicles and two power bikes, as a popular person. Admirers were chanting Charly Boy! Charly Boy! as he headed towards the entrance of the market with a banner, ‘OurMumuDonDo.’
“After he entered the market, some pro-Buhari boys came out to counter him, shouting Sai Baba and immediately launched an attack on him and his group. He quickly mounted one of the power bikes and fled while the mob intensified the attack on the group he left behind.”
Another eye-witness, who identified himself as Oludare, who sustained some bruises on his face from the attack, said he escaped death also because he begged the mob, telling them that he was not part of the protesters.
“I was tagged anti-Buhari by hoodlums who would have probably stoned me to death if I had not pleaded to allow me identity myself as a journalist.
“Charly Boy not only escaped lynching, but he was also very favoured to have left Wuse Market alive. My eyes were on him till he left after taking several stone hits.”
Traffic in and around the market was quickly diverted to other routes to allow security officials and other relevant people access the market, while traders and their consumers were ordered out of the market.
When Vanguard visited the market, it was already taken over by Police anti-riot trucks stationed around the market.
Additional police officials and men of the National Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) were stationed at the scene to maintain peace and order, while some of them succeeded in whisking away Charlyboy from the mob who had obviously over-powered him and his group.
Situation under control, no lives lost— Police
Meanwhile, a source at the Police Command said there was no information regarding loss of life of either a protester from the Charly Boy group or the opposing side.
“The Police have brought the situation under control. The prompt intervention by police operatives has averted a major clash between two opposing sides at Wuse Market”, a statement signed by the Command’s spokesman, DSP Anjuguri Manzah, said.
Continuing, Manzah said: “To forestall further breakdown of law and order, the market management has ordered the closure of the Wuse market. A large contingent of policemen has been deployed to the market to provide security.”
Protester should go and look for work — Garba Shehu
Meanwhile, presidential spokesman, Mallam Garba Shehu, yesterday, said the protesters should go and look for a job, if they didn’t have anything to do.
Speaking in a Channels Television interview yesterday morning, Shehu said President Muhammadu Buhari fulfilled all constitutional requirements before travelling.
“This is a democracy, and we respect the citizens’ rights to demonstrate. All of this is coming from a band of less than two dozen persons who have their antecedents that are known to us, and they will be dictating to the country what to do?
“Majority of Nigerians are on the same page, they have given the President enough trust, and I can assure you what is ahead is far better.
“The President did the right thing by following strictly the requirements of the constitution and handed over power to the vice-president. The government is running very well; we don’t have any difficulties. Let’s focus on the big issues, dealing with the mountains of corruption and the insecurity and the economy which is coming back now. Please don’t upset the apple cart. They should go and find work if they don’t have anything to do,” Shehu said.