From Oluseye Oj, Ibadan
It was spontaneous. Dangerous weapons were freely used. Staccato of gunfire rent the atmosphere. And volley of bullets moved freely in different directions. Arrows, machete, knives and other leather weapons joined to either send people to their early graves or inflict bodily injuries on people
Shops were razed. Houses were burnt down. Goods worth millions of naira were consumed by fire. The sad news spread across the globe dominating every space. It was deadly but avoidable clash between the Hausa and their Yoruba host at the Shasha Market, Ibadan, Oyo State.
Operatives of the security agencies, including the army, police, Department of State Security (DSS), Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Operation Burst (a special joint-security outfit of Oyo State) and Amotekun Corps were dispatched to the area to restore normalcy.
The crisis started on Thursday February 11, and reached crescendo on Saturday, February 13, 2021. Governor Seyi Makinde shut the market and imposed 6p.m to 7a.m curfew to forestall further breakdown of law and order for nearly two weeks.
When the dust settled, the state Police Command said 32 persons lost their lives and properties destroyed. Seven Yoruba suspects were arraigned before the Magistrate’s Court, Iyaganku, Ibadan. They are Tajudeen Oladunni, Saburi Lawal, Ojo Joshua, Adekunle Olanrewaju, Olagunju James, Rasaq Yahya and Olaide Olawuyi.
Police were knocked for being one-sided in their arrest. The police insisted that the accused caused the death of 32 persons during the fracas. The prosecuting police officer, Folake Oladosu, preferred a six-count charge against the accused which include conspiracy, arson and murder.
Magistrate I.O. Osho did not take the plea of the accused persons. The court ordered the police to return the case file to the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) for legal advice, and remanded the suspects in Abolongo Correctional facility in Oyo town. The case was adjourned to May 11, 2021, for mention.
A trader in the market, Mrs Rebecca Akinjide, said: “If truly police want to do their job, they should look for the boy that killed that shoe maker. Those people arrested are all Yoruba who are mere residents of Shasa. Those who killed the man should be arrested.
“Ninety per cent of the property destroyed were owned by Yoruba. Do you think they can be foolish to burn their own property? Seven people we are talking about were arrested by soldiers, who were protecting Hausa people. We know the politics.”
Commissioner of Police, Mrs. Ngozi Onadeko, confirmed that the seven persons arraigned in court were handed over to the police by the Nigerian Army. However, when the legal advice came out, the seven suspects were exonerated and that they had no case to answer.
The state Police Public Relations Officer, Olugbenga Fadeyi, who said the police acted on the advice from the DPP: “Military arrested the seven people and handed them over to the police. We told you that they were released based to the advice by the DPP.”
Chairman, Shasa Market Traders Association, Alhaji Usman Idris Yako, said: “We thought the suspects are going to face the wrath of the law to prevent future occurrences. But they are not going to face the law. We are not surprised about the outcome, and that is why we did not go back to Shasa Market. We are now doing our businesses in our new base in Akinyele.
“Again, the assistance given by the government and well-wishers were not enough. Many of the palliatives were given to Sarkin Sasa, who has no business in Shasa Market. The Sarkin Shasa, who has no business in Shasa collected many of the palliatives. He didn’t give us anything. We are the real victims but here we are. We have decided not to go back to Shasa for our own safety.”
However, Chief Popoola Rasheed, Babaloja of Shasa Market said: I cannot not pray pray that the seven Yoruba people arrested be jailed. The police and the superior authority, according to him, have said the seven accused persons have no case to answer.”
Genesis of the clash
Two things led to the ethnic clash. The first one had to do with the leadership crisis rocking the market, while the second one bordered on the death of a cobbler, Sakirudeen Adeola. The leadership crisis was the remote cause, while Adeola’s death was the trigger that caused the pandemonium.
The duo of Baale of Shasha, Chief Amusa Ajani, and Sarkin Hausawa of Ibadan, Alhaji Ahmed Zungeru said those keen on the management of the market were behind the crisis that rocked the community. According to them, they have approved new management for the market, but they have not been allowed to function. They alleged that the seven suspects were the ones behind the crisis and that their names have been submitted to the security agencies.
Youth Leader of Shasha, Adama Fijabi, said the seven persons refused to submit themselves to the authorities of Baale Ajani and Sarkin Shasha, Alhaji Haruna Maiyasin-Katsina. He said all the shops were burnt allegedly by the suspects. He said the shops, belonging to the seven are the only ones that were not burnt.
He said Maiyasin had approached the Baale of Shasha many years ago that the Hausa/Fulani community should be allowed to appoint chairman for the market for better coordination of goods from the northern part to Shasha Market, while the Baale would always produce the vice chairman. The agreement, he said, subsists till date.
A date was fixed for swearing in ceremony for the new management of the market. But the insecurity, being created purportedly by the seven persons, prevented the event from taking place. Delicate peace had permeated the atmosphere of the market for the past few months. It was a drum of gunpowder that exploded triggered by a minute issue that should have ordinarily been resolved amicably.
The immediate cause of the crisis occurred on Thursday February 11, 2020 when a human load carrier, from Niger Republic, had altercations with a pregnant woman in front of her shop. The man had carried tomatoes in a nylon bag, and on getting to the front of the pregnant woman’s shop, the nylon got burst and the tomatoes fell on the ground.
The man picked the good ones and left the spoilt ones on the ground. The pregnant woman accosted him and insisted that he should pack the remaining tomatoes on the ground, but the man refused. In the process, she grabbed the man’s cloth and the load carrier began to be violent against her.
The cobbler, who was watching the development from his shop, went to meet the two of them with a view to resolving the crisis. Sakirundeen said the Nigerien should not litre the frontage of the woman’s shop and should not have fought a pregnant woman.
The man got angry and gave the shoemaker a deadly blow. The shoemaker fell and hit his head against a stone. Some believed the Nigerien used charm to hit the cobbler. The shoemaker was rushed to a nearby hospital where one Alhaji Kehinde paid N30,000 for his treatment.
At about 8:30pm the same Thursday, a delegation of Shasha youth was sent to the Sarkin Shasha. But one of his children attended to them, saying his father was indisposed and he had gone to bed. He asked them to come on Friday morning to meet his father.
But on Friday morning, the cobbler died in the hospital. The development got the friends and family members of the deceased angry and they went to meet Sarkin Shasha to fish out the load carrier that committed the crime. The response they got was that the load carrier had escaped. The youth insisted that all the load carriers in the market must contribute the N30,000 paid for the treatment of the deceased, before he breathed his last.
Before people knew what was happening, the shops in the market went up in flames, as well as houses around the market. The Yoruba alleged that the Hausa were the ones burning Yoruba property and they too mobilised for reprisal. In the process, trucks bringing tomatoes and pepper to the market were looted and vandalised.
But the intervention of combined teams of security agencies prevented further carnage on the fateful Friday. Some Hausa, numbering about 200 reportedly scaled the fence of IITA for safety. On getting to the campus of institute, they were rounded up by the security guards and were taken to a particular place within the premises, where they were given medical attention, given temporary shelter and fed.
Some Hausa afraid of the crisis left Shasha for Akinyele, Iroko and Sabo all in Ibadan, where they were accommodated temporarily. Alhaji Kazeem Yaro, the Dan Masani of Sarkin Shasha, confirmed the load carrier to be a Nigerien.
The Baale Ajani said: “We do not discriminate against any tribe. We believe we are of the same family. We want peaceful co-existence of all tribes here. We want a return to how we have been co-existing in Shasha. We are no longer fighting. We want to live in peace. We are not fighting with Hausa, and Igbo. We know those causing trouble. The government should help us take them away from Akinyele Local Government. We don’t want people to beat drums of war. We welcome anyone who wants to trade at Shasha market peacefully. We welcome anyone that will live here in peace.”