Ebonyi: Revenue officials, traders clash; 2 feared dead in Abakpa market




Umahi

Abakpa main market, Abakaliki, capital was on Wednesday thrown into confusion following clash between traders and Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) officials.

Eye witness account said that as a result of the incident, buyers were seen scampering to safety after a about two persons were killed within the market.

The traders whose anger were by the killing of their members revolted and almost vandalised shops belonging to market leaders who worked with the government.

A trader who spoke on condition of anonymity narrated that trouble started when the Special Adviser to Governor David Umahi on IGR, Martins Okwuegbu, and the Commissioner for Internal Security and Border Peace, Stanley Emegha led some youths to collect the IGR from some traders in the market.

The youth were said to be members of Ekubaraoha Youth Assembly (EYA).

The trader alleged that the ‘revenue collectors’ were using the IGR collection as cover to close down the shops of some traders who took the state government to court over the leadership dispute in the market.

He further said that traders had gone to court to challenge the removal of the market leadership before the expiration of their tenure and imposition of a new interim leadership on them by the state government.

According to him, “They came to the market and were taken to the shops of the traders that took them to court and they started closing their shops, accusing them of not paying IGR.

“One of the sons of one of the traders entered into altercation with them and in the process a fight broke out.

“As they were beating him, he fell on the ground forcefully and he hit his head on the ground and lost consciousness.

It was gathered that the traders immediately mobilised and attacked the IGR team and beat some of them up while others escaped. 

When Blueprint visited the market, Police had use tear gas to disperse many of the market who had scampered for their safety while they arrested many of them.

When contacted, the Police spokesman, Loveth Odah, denied that anyone was killed in the incident.

She confirmed that one person sustained injury on the head and was rushed to the Federal Teaching Hospital Abakaliki for treatment.

Also, Mr Mark Onu, Leader of Ekubaraoha Youth Assembly and Umahi’s Special Assistant on Youth Mobilisation denied involvement in the incident.

“I am not aware of that, I wasn’t there. You can go and ask the SA on Markets what happened. No government official has the right to deploy his members for any purpose with informing him.

Commissioner for Internal Security, Stanley Emegha denied that anyone was killed.

He confirmed being in company of the Special Assistant on IGR, Okwuegbu, when they visited market to seal some shops.

According to him, five shops were sealed for various reasons, ranging from refusal to pay IGR to the shops being used for criminal activities in the market.

Also, Okwuegbu said about seven shops were sealed for not paying their taxes but denied knowledge of any fracas or death and that the exercise was peaceful. 

“We sealed the shops and left peacefully. I’m just hearing from you that someone died. Nothing like that happened while we were there,” he said.

He denied the allegations that the exercise was used to victimise some traders who opposed government action on the market leadership.

“We served them notice to pay three times before going to seal their shops. If anyone says he or she has paid, let him or her come and present their records and we will immediately open the shops,” he said.

Special Assistant to Umahi on market development, Karian Emeka Ofoke said, “We as government went there to enforce the evaders of tax and levies.

“We locked up their shops and left. Later we heard there was trouble and we sent security agents to ensure there is no breakdown of law and order in the market and that is all I know. I don’t even envisage that somebody died. I was there in the morning and I left.”

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