There was pandemonium in the Oshodi area of Lagos, on Monday, as shops belonging to Igbo traders were allegedly forced shut by hoodlums said to be sympathetic to the All Progressives Congress.
It was gathered that the hoodlums beat up some of the traders for allegedly voting for the Peoples Democratic Party during the presidential and National Assembly elections that held on Saturday.
PUNCH Metro gathered that the hoodlums invaded the market around 5am and destroyed some shops before the traders arrived to set up their wares.
It was learnt that the hoodlums returned around 7am to beat up some of the traders, who were assessing the damage done to their shops.
One of the traders, who identified himself simply as Emeka, and whose shop was destroyed, said the hoodlums had no justification to attack the traders and their means of livelihood for exercising their civic right, adding that they were paying taxes to the Lagos State Government.
He stated, “I arrived for the day’s business only to see my shed already destroyed. When I asked those who arrived before me, I was told that some people came armed with weapons to destroy our places of business. I also learnt that they beat up some traders when they came the second time.
“This action on the Igbo is condemnable, because we are the ones developing this state. Some of the shops built by the government are sold to us because we are willing to pay any amount to get shops where business thrives.
“We are calling on the state government to put security measures in place so that such a thing will not repeat itself. As a Nigerian, it is expected that everyone will be free to do business anywhere in the country without being intimidated or harassed by anybody, regardless of who they decide to vote for.”
Another trader, identified simply as Obinna, said he escaped the beating by the hoodlums by chance.
Obinna said, “I was able to escape the hoodlums’ beating by luck, because when I saw some guys coming in a group with planks in their hands, I knew there was a problem and I just took to my heels. When I returned, some of the traders, who didn’t run far from the place, told me of what happened.
“Someone had earlier suggested that I should take some time before resuming business after the elections, but I thought democracy in 2019 should not involve violence. It is really bad that people cannot be allowed to exercise their right to vote in the acclaimed centre of excellence.”
A trader, who refused to give her name, said, “There was a problem with the ‘area boys’ this morning at Oshodi. They blocked our shops for almost an hour before the ‘Operation Python Dance’ operatives came and the hoodlums fled.
“The attack was accentuated by their belief that we the Igbo, who are doing business in Oshodi and environs, voted for the PDP instead of the APC. They even threatened to drive us out of Oshodi and place curses on us.
“So, in the process, information got to the ‘Operation Python Dance’ operatives, who ordered everybody to reopen their shops. That was when people resumed their normal business.
“What we have seen is that the youth acted based on some people’s directives. We don’t know those who sent them to attack us. Does it mean that we don’t have the right to vote for whoever we want?
“Must we vote for the same person they are voting for? It is wrong and this should not be a part of the democratic process. There are so many other things happening here, but we don’t say them out in the interest of peace.”
The member representing Oshodi Isolo 1 in the House of Representatives, Mutiu Shadimu, condemned the action of the hoodlums and called on the authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice.
He stated, “This morning, I was informed that non-indigenes were being attacked in Oshodi. The hoodlums were alleged to have asked the traders not to open their shops for voting for the PDP. This is rather unfortunate in a country that is supposed to be a federation. Every citizen has the right to live wherever they want to live and have the right to vote for whoever they want to vote for.
“No individual has the right to stop them from carrying out their civic duty. We are gradually running towards anarchy and I implore the agencies and people in government to keep up with their constitutional duties and bring to justice those who perpetrated such an act.”
The Lagos State Task Force on Environmental Sanitation and Special Offences, however, debunked the news of the incident, stating that the alleged civil unrest was a rumour.
In a statement issued by its Head of Public Affairs Unit, Adebayo Taofiq, the Chairman of the task force, CSP Olayinka Egbeyemi, was quoted as saying that the agency and other security outfits were in constant patrol of the area to prevent the breakdown of law and order.
“Members of the public are hereby enjoined not to panic and go about their lawful business around Oshodi and other parts of the state,” he added.
Egbeyemi urged parents and guardians to closely monitor their wards as anyone caught fomenting trouble would be seriously dealt with in accordance with the law.
He also enjoined members of the public to call 112 and 767 in case of any disturbance or emergency around their vicinity.
Similarly, the Lagos State Police Command dispelled rumours of attacks on Igbo traders by ‘area boys’ in Oshodi.
The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, CSP Chike Oti, said in a statement, on Monday, that although the command received distress calls about the rumoured attacks, operatives were deployed in various parts of Oshodi and environs, adding that it did not receive information about any attack.
Oti stated, “The attention of the Lagos State Police Command has been drawn to the news making the rounds on the Internet to the effect that a group of boys, popularly called ‘area boys’, were attacking Igbo traders in Oshodi, preventing them from opening their shops.
“The command wishes to debunk the rumour in its entirety as nothing could be further from the truth.
“Although the command received distress calls from concerned Nigerians, whose apprehension was understandably heightened by disturbing rumours emanating from some social media platforms, the command swiftly and massively deployed its personnel drawn from various units in Oshodi and environs to assuage the feelings of residents and further assure Lagosians of its readiness to decisively deal with any person or group of persons who attempts to breach the public peace.”
He said the Commissioner of Police, Mu’azu Zubairu, commended Lagosians for conducting themselves in a peaceful and orderly manner during Saturday’s presidential and National Assembly elections.
Oti said the police, with the support of other sister security agencies, worked round the clock to ensure that the process was generally peaceful.
He said, “In order to sustain the peaceful atmosphere, the command will maintain a high level of police presence in all parts of the state with emphasis on crime-prone areas.
“Those celebrating should do so with modesty, while those unhappy with the results have the privilege of adhering to laid-down procedures of addressing their grievances as provided by the Electoral Act at the tribunals. The command has made adequate arrangements to secure the venues of the election petition tribunals in the state.”