Okey Sampson, Aba
Soldiers of the 144 Battalion of the Nigeria Army, Asa, Ukwa West Local Government Area of Abia State, were alleged to have shot and killed three traders of the Asa Nnentu Auto Spare Parts Market in Aba at the weekend.
It was gathered that the soldiers, who were in three Hilux trucks, had gone to the market to remove posters bearing image and messages of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, warning members of the public against participating in the February 16 and March 2 elections. The posters were alleged to have been pasted on various shops in the market.
The traders alleged that the soldiers, on entering the market, forcefully demanded that each trader should remove the poster in front of his shop. According to the traders, those who tore the posters in front of their shops were allowed to stay, but those who refused, insisting they were not the ones that pasted the posters and, therefore, had no right to remove them, got into trouble.
Apparently angered by the temerity of the shop owners in refusing to tear the posters, the soldiers decided to tear the posters themselves after which they arrested the uncompromising shop owners.
The action, according to a source, did not go down well with the traders, as they attempted to stop the soldiers from taking away their colleagues.
Sources further claimed that, in the melee, the soldiers started shooting randomly in the market, gunning down three traders in the process.
The incident caused pandemonium in the market, forcing many shop owners to close abruptly to avoid being hit by bullets or being arrested by the soldiers.
Some of the shop owners, who spoke with newsmen under anonymity, said efforts to know the whereabouts of some of their members who were whisked away by the soldiers have not yielded any fruit.
They claimed that information at their disposal has it that the arrested persons would be moved to the brigade headquarters, Ohafia, from where they would be transferred to Abuja, even when some of them were still with bullet wounds and have not been given any first aid.
Meanwhile, the alleged attack by the soldiers has received negative reactions from Aba residents as many condemned the soldiers for being unprofessional and reckless in handling matters.
Mr. Chidi Emeka, a civil rights activist, said the military should not have gone into the market without discussing with the leadership of the traders’ association in the market.