From Geoffrey Anyanwu, Enugu
There was pandemonium, yesterday, at the new artisan market on Enugu-Port Harcourt Highway when traders, mostly Hausa, engaged in a free for all, brandishing guns and other dangerous weapons.
The traders, who were revolting against a move by the leadership of the market union to implement a directive of the state government to relocate their new site, were said to have engaged security agents in a gun bout.
However, another version of the story had it that th violent situation was a s a result of the traders, majority of who reside inside massive site, resisting the execution of a court order allegedly obtained by owners of the land, the Nwanjanja family in Enugu East.
Nwanjanja family was said to have been in court with the state government over the ownership of the said land, housing the market, since it was taken from them during the Chimaroke Nnamani administration.
The family haven obtained a court order were said to have mobilised yesterday to demolish the structures and take over the land.
But counsel to the traders, Olu Omotayo, told newsmen that leaders of the market, mainly occupied by cow and goat traders, had on Wednesday evening in a meeting with Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, the Garrison Commander, Police Commissioner and Civil Defence Commander in the state resolved to vacate the market to its new location on the Enugu-Abakaliki highway.
The traders were said to have deployed several arms during the fight, leading to many sustaining injuries.
They were said to have taken the fight to the expressway and shutting the traffic on the Enugu-Port Harcourt highway for hours, even as the state government drafted the military and police to contain the uprisings.
Some of the gun-wielding traders blocked the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation end of the expressway, shooting sporadically, stopping vehicular movement just as they set up bonfires along the expressway.
Exonerating his agency from the incident, Chairman of the Enugu Capital Territory (ECTDA), Ken Onoh, denied that government officials went to enforce the demolition of the market.
He said: “Attention of ECTDA has been drawn to the authority’s name being peddled in connection with the Thursday, April 22, incident at the closed new artisan market.
“Recall that the state government had in some years past shut down the new market. ECTDA has been inundated with calls on inquiries, regarding a demolition said to have been carried out at the previous market.
“The agency however wishes to state that it is not aware of any enforcement at the artisan market, nor has it received any petition to that effect.
“Let it also be known that the ECTDA was not part of whatever activity that took place there and do not have any business with whatsoever activity there.”
When contacted, Police Public Relations Officer, Daniel Ndukwe, said normalcy had been restored to the area and he would come up with details later.