•Igbo traders, others stage rally, demand justice
From Desmond Mgboh, Kano
Igbo traders in Kano penultimate week staged a major protest in the city, with thousands of men and women, expressing disapproval over the recent killings of their kinsmen in the state.
The protest, which was held at Magaji Rumfa Primary School, Enugu Road, Kano, was organised by the Igbo Traders Welfare Union in Sabon Gari (Abubakar Rimi) Market, in conjunction with the 22 Igbo trade unions in the state.
There have been incidents that seemingly targeted Igbo people in the state. Among these was the killing of a 73-year-old pastor’s wife from Imo State, Mrs. Bridget Agbaheme, and last week’s killing of a young Igbo trader, Mr. Augustine Tochukwu Ilo.
About 5pm on June 2, Mrs. Agbaheme was killed at the Kofar Wambai Market after she was accused of blaspheming Islam. The mob broke into a neighbour’s shop where she had hidden and hacked her down, striking her head severally with a metal object until she died.
The whole world and the Igbo folks in the state were outraged by the event. Her church, Deeper Life Bible Church, where her husband is a renowned pastor, and the entire family, were in deep grief.
The state government moved in fast to avert any breach of law and order, inviting the Eze Ndigbo, Kano, Chief Boniface Ibekwe, and his aides to the Government House for talks. At that meeting also were the Christian Associations of Nigeria, Kano State Chapter, led by its Bishop, Ransom Bello, and a few Muslim clerics. The meeting helped to douse the tension.
Barely a month afterward, another tragedy befell the Igbo community in the state when some policemen suddenly shot dead Mr. Augustine Tochukwu Ilo, a native of Anambra State. He was killed by operatives of the police Special Anti -Robbery Squad (SARS) along France Road. He died the following day.
The police in Kano promptly said they had commenced investigation into the killing, adding that the SARS team leader, a former ADC in the state, had been arrested alongside his men.
The police also said that the Commissioner of Police in Kano State, Alhaji Rabiu Yusuf, had commiserated with Igbo elders in the state over the incident.
But how did the tragedy happen? Before he died at the Murtala Mohammed Specialist Hospital, Ilo narrated that one of his customers called Dan Ajiya, also known as Gbenga, had called him, asking the deceased to make a fresh supply of goods. But Ilo had reportedly refused on the grounds that Ajiya had not settled his old debt.
He added that when Ajiya could not get across to him because he was no longer picking his calls, Ajiya used another line to call him where he assured him that he had his old money to pay ahead of the new supply.
The deceased told his relatives that when he got to the agreed location, he met a Honda vehicle with tinted glass. He said some voices from the car ordered him to stop. “But as I stopped to turn to the direction of the commanding voice, a volley of shots rang out and threw me away,” he said before he died.
Many believe Ilo’s death was a deliberate set up by the police and the said Dan Ajiya.
Eyewitnesses said the policemen promptly removed Ilo and took him to the hospital, even as they were chased to the hospital by hundreds of commercial tricycle riders.
At the hospital, a surgery was conducted where two bullets were extracted from the victim. But he died a few hours after the surgery.
There was a protest following his death, but it was suspended after Igbo leaders prevailed on the protesters to suspend the exercise, so that the demonstration would not degenerate into an ethnic fight.
But the latest protest indicated that the Igbo people of Kano had found a common voice.
During the protest, there was a 24-hour closure of shops by Igbo traders in the state, which eventually paralysed business activities across the various markets, including the Iron and Steel Market, Kofar Ruwa, Kofar Wambai Market and Sabon- Garri Market.
From all roads, people trooped to the primary school on Enugu Road from as early as dawn. And there was adequate security, as uniformed and plainclothed officers ensured the protest was peaceful.
Many of the protesters, who were between the ages of 15 and 40, dressed in black. Others wore torn singlets or were without tops. Ushers wore light-blue T –Shirts with inscription: WEMA,WE LOVE YOU. Wema was Ilo’s nickname.
At 10.00am, there were no seats left in the open field even as many people were still standing. New canopies had to be erected while additional seats were fetched from nearby events centres.
As they sat under the canopy, listening to various speeches and mourning, the picture of the event was that of a worried race – unsure of their future, uncertain of their present, yet resolving to forge ahead, in spite of all.
Some seats were reserved for the widow of the deceased, Mrs. Ebere Augustine Ilo, and her two daughters, aged two years and seven months respectively, as well as her relatives. Near her seat was another row that was reserved for the relatives of the deceased pastor’s wife from Mbaitolu Local Government Area of Imo State.
In the beginning, the rally was characterised by dirges, even as plaintive tunes pervaded the atmosphere.
One of the songs noted: “Sudden death is no longer our portion, our tears are full, sudden death is no longer our portion. This killing must stop.”
A cleric, Pastor Peter Chikweruba, preached a sermon at the rally. He asked God to send down his angels to protect his children in the state, even as he tasked the people to love one another and work for one another.
Chief Moses Okpara, one of the organisers of the event, assured the bereaved people that the struggle for justice in respect of the murder had begun. He said the Commissioner of Police in the state was very unhappy with the development and had pledged to do justice in the case.
At intervals, the youth, armed with Dogoyara leaves and placards, would break out into the field, running round and singing Enyimba enyi. Inscriptions on the placards were in English, Igbo and Hausa, with messages, such as ‘Stop the killings of Igbo in Kano’, and ‘We are a peaceful people’, among others.
Chairman of the Sabon-Gari Market Igbo Traders Association condemned the two cases. He said the rally was organised to mourn the two Igbo traders and to articulate their displeasure to the government, the police and the world in general. He said Igbo leaders in Kano would do all that was within their powers to pursue the cases to their logical conclusion.
He called on the police authorities to bring the culprits to book, even as he charged the government to take definite steps to end the random killings of Igbo people resident in Kano. He prayed for the souls of the deceased persons and asked God to grant their families the fortitude to bear the loss.
Eze Ndigbo of Kano, Chief Ibekwe, who made a brief appearance at the rally, said the Emir of Kano, Mallam Muhammad Sanusi 11, had waded into the case. He said the monarch had resolved to ensure that justice was done in the matter.
He condemned the fact that another Igbo man was killed, even while the dust was yet to settle in the killing of the late Mrs. Bridget Agbaheme. He lauded the three tricycle riders, who chased after the police operatives after they fled with the victim.
“But for their bravery, chances are that they might have dumped the deceased among criminals. They were the ones that chased the police operatives up to the hospital and then came back to call attention to what had happened.
“I also thank the Igbo traders in the drug market. There is nothing as valuable as taking wise counsel of elders. This killing happened with force and their initial disposition was to chase it with equal force. But I am happy to say that they took my advice and suspended all actions on the matter,” he stated.
Chief Ibekwe thanked the organisers and the people for making the entire exercise peaceful, appealing for peace and calm. He charged the people to be united, adding that as traders, a united front was needed to overcome their challenges. He also prayed for the souls of the departed and appealed to God to grant them eternal rest.
Ebere, wife of the deceased, who cried all through the rally, recalled that she was called on phone and asked to rush from Onitsha where she was staying to Kano, regretting that by the time she arrived in the state, her husband had passed on.
She expressed worry over the fate of her two children, who would live the rest of their lives without a father. She said her husband was a good man and a loving father to his kids.
The deceased’s elder brother, Mr. Osita Ilo, a plastic dealer in Awka, told Daily Sun at the event that his late brother departed so suddenly and left his family with unforgettable memories. He expressed gratitude to the organisers of the rally for honouring his brother, adding that the deceased’s life was not in vain.
He said the police should take care of the welfare of the deceased’s wife and kids, noting that the widow was a typical housewife with no visible means of livelihood.