How Shasha Market traders lost millions in Oyo ethnic clash
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The Hausa-Yoruba clash that occurred a few weeks ago leading to the burning down of Shasha market in Ibadan, Oyo State capital, did not only claim lives but also left many traders, who lost goods worth hundreds of millions of naira in the two-day ethnic crisis, in tears. The ICIR’s NIYI OYEDEJI reports.
ABAYOMI MUTAHIRU, a popular onion dealer, lost investments of over N20 million to the two – day February mayhem at Shasha market in Ibadan, the Oyo state capital. Just before the carnage, Mutahiru, 52, took delivery of 213 bags of onions as he had done over the past years. But this time around, doom lurked in the air, and he had no inkling.
“The clash occurred the day after I re-stocked my shop. The wood and onions scattered around all over the floor are mine,” a distraught Mutahiru says, pointing to a litter of burnt onions and wood that were left of his investments.
“I lost 213 bags of onions to this incident. They burnt some, stole some, the remnant is what is lying here.”
Before his shop was razed down, a wooden box containing N230, 000 was looted by the mob.
“My children can no longer go to school, my wife now has to stay back home. We have lost everything.”
Age-long hostility fuels crisis
Before the crisis Shasha market had in the past, experienced ethnic-related feuds, often between Hausa and Yoruba communities, but none was as devastating as last one, says Rasheed Popoola, the Babaloja of Shasha (the market leader).
“Whenever there is a clash, we always try to ensure that it doesn’t escalate but sadly, no one could control it this time.”
According to him, the February 11 clash between the hitherto friendly Hausa and Yoruba communities was sparked by an altercation between a pregnant Yoruba woman and a Hausa cart pusher in the market. The disagreement led to the death of one Sakirudeen Adeola, a cobbler, popularly known as Korex, said to have been hit by the cart pusher.
“Following his death, myself, some friends and the police went to the Hausas to appeal to them. The conversation was ongoing when we noticed a group of angry men approaching us with stones,” Popoola narrates the incident leading to the crisis.
Sighting the angry mob, ‘Babaloja’ and the police fled. “The market place became violent almost immediately,” he adds.
Korex’s untimely death was a trigger for the long-held hostility between the two communities, said Akinade Ajani, the Yoruba traditional head (Ba’ale) of Shasha.
The ICIR gathered that the tension is connected to the leadership tussle between the people of the two tribes.
“It started a long time ago, shortly after the Hausas settled in the area in 1979. This violent outburst is the result of a pending conflict,” says the traditional ruler.
“Though all we cared about was to peacefully coexist and enjoy the proceeds from the market together, but the Hausas have been persistent about their ownership of the major goods sold in the market and thereby want to be the one taking the position of the chairman of Shasha Market Traders Association.”
The ICIR learnt there has been a tradition of appointing a Hausa man as the chairman and a Yoruba man as the vice-chairman since the establishment of the market but trouble started last year when Ba’ale decided to appoint a Yoruba man as the chairman of the association.
Ajani notes that despite efforts by him and Haruna Maiyesin, the Seriki Hausa in Shasha, to mediate in the appointment tussle and midwife a chairman accepted by all, there are eight individuals in the market who would never accept a Yoruba chairmanship of the market.
In his words, “they are the ones causing a crisis in the market.”
The Ba’ale says he doesn’t know their names but alleges that the eight people are Yoruba and Hausa.
“I believe the government needs to fish them out for peace to reign,” he says.
The Seriki Hausa on his part did not want to speak on the market leadership tussle but alleges that those who triggered the crisis were not residents of the community.
“Anybody creating a problem should be tackled by the government. Those that burnt and killed people are not from here,” Maiyesin insists.
“Both the Hausas and Yorubas who caused the mayhem are not faces we know. On Saturday and Sunday, I had over 5,000 people, including Yoruba and Hausas, in my palace who ran for their lives.”
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Traders count losses
Most of the Hausa traders affected by the crisis had to move down to Sabo area, another Hausa community in Ibadan, to seek refuge after losing their goods and properties.
Sixty-five-year-old Uwar Kamil, popularly known as Alhaji Karami, says he is left with nothing following the crisis. He lost N2 million worth of goods and a house that was completely burnt down.
“Three of my shops where I sell empty bags for rice and where pepper and grains can be packaged were completely burnt,” Kamil laments. “My storey building was also totally destroyed. Even what I’m wearing now was sown and given to me yesterday by my children. I left there with my life alone.”
Like Karami, Auwal Musa lost over N3 million worth of goods to the violence, as he just took delivery of goods the day the market was engulfed in violence.
Still trying to recover from the shock, Musa says everything just happened like a miracle and that he is still surprised that such an incident started from a shop and escalated to destruction of goods worth several millions of naira.
“They just brought my goods and I was offloading it so I did not count them before the fight started but I ordered 300 baskets of pepper and each bag goes for N10,000,” says Musa.
Idayat Rahman, also known as Alatepupo among the locals in the market due to the size of her provision store, says the fight came unexpectedly.
“On Thursday night, I heard stories about a fight between a Yoruba and Hausa man but I didn’t pay much attention to it since the fight happened somewhere distant from my shops,” the 62-year-old businesswoman says.
“Unknowingly, I went to the market the next day to go about my daily business. I was still trying to open one of my shops when a group of Hausa boys ran to me and asked me to run for my life.”
“I hesitated until I caught sight of a group of people throwing bottles and threatening to kill as many Yoruba people as possible. I hurriedly ran into the shop, locked myself in and started praying.”
She said she was terrified and had to call a cab to help move some of her goods away from the shop but was later chased away by the rampaging people, who did not only loot her shop but also set the whole building ablaze.
“I lost goods worth over N10 million. I lost my house, store and shops. The incident left me empty, I have nothing left. I have two shops around this axis and three stores inside the market. All the five were burnt down completely.”
Afeez Monsurat, a tailor in the market who was also affected by the crisis, had her shop burnt, her machines and customers’ cloths also were not spared.
“I am a tailor; I sew all kinds of clothes. Before the incidents, I had all the machines I needed to work effectively. I had a standard shop but everything is gone now,” a crying Monsurat says.
Hopelessness and frustration
After the looting and razing down of shops during the Shasha market crisis, many families are now left to count their losses.
When the dust settled after the free-for-all battle at the market, at least 100 of almost 150 shops in Shasha market were completely razed down, while the rest were vandalised and goods worth several millions were carted away.
Alhaji Adegoke Kolade and his families have lost count of the loss the incident inflicted on them. They not only lost their goods, but also over 20 stalls in the market.
Kolade is famous for having multiple shops in the market, his wife and children who help sell goods in the market also live in a two-storey house built by the 71-year-old man.
His grief-stricken wife and children could barely speak to The ICIR because they were yet to recover from the shock of their loss.
He says the shops owned by his two wives with over N10 million worth of goods were razed down, adding that his daughter, Abibat, who sells exotic drinks and wines, also had her shop looted and burnt to ashes.
“The shops I rented out to the Hausa people were also looted and razed. I had to bring out a gun to disperse the mob from burning down my two-storey building where I live with my wives and children,” a panic-stricken 71-year-old Kolade says.
The sad tales of the Kolade family is similar to that of Rukayat Opeyemi, whose family also lost 13 shops to the crisis. Her shop and that of her children and grandchildren were also looted and totally burnt down.
Taofeek, Opeyemi’s grandson, says his grandmother sells dry pepper in eight of the shops. All the pepper she restocked on that fateful day was burnt down with the shops, he laments.
“My own shop where I sell mobile phones and phone accessories was also razed down, we are left with nothing now.”
Over 3,500 basket of pepper were looted, burnt
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) statistics, Nigeria is one of the major producers of pepper in the world, accounting for about 50 per cent of African production. The country’s major area of production is northern Nigeria.
The North supplies the bulk of the pepper needs of the southern parts whose production is still a small scale.
The ICIR findings revealed that Shasha market is the second-largest pepper market in Nigeria, coming after the Mile 12 market in Lagos.
According to Illyas Bala, the General Secretary, Shasha Market Traders Association, the market receives no fewer than 40 trucks of pepper from the northern part of the country daily.
He recollects that over 35 trucks of pepper had already been offloaded that Friday morning before the crisis started, adding that a truck contains about 100 baskets of pepper, onions or tomatoes.
“When the crisis started and people ran away for safety, the hoodlums wreaking havoc looted some of these peppers and burnt the rest,” Bala said.
“It took the intervention of the security agencies in ensuring the trucks were not burnt, which could have been so disastrous.”
According to him, Oyo State Government charges N1, 500 as a tax on every truck of pepper offloaded in the market.
“We usually offload 40 trucks on a daily basis; 20 trucks in the morning and 20 in the afternoon. I would have shown you the receipts of these taxes if they had not burnt everything during the crisis,” says Bala.
Calls for government’s intervention
While some of the traders that spoke with The ICIR appealed to the government to compensation them for their losses, others, particularly Hausa traders, were of the opinion that the government should relocate them to another place for security reasons.
Muhammadu Rabiu Luguhudu, who lost 350 bags of chili pepper and scotch bonnet and his younger brother, Awwalu Kurma Lugubudu to the incident, says the lives of the Hausa traders are not secure in the market.
He maintains that the government should give them another market where they can sell their goods freely.
“My younger brother was killed during the riot. He was my blood brother, his wife just gave birth and the baby is just two weeks old, with four older kids.”
“My late father, Alhaji Garba Luguhudu, was once the chairman of the market and all the shops he left for us have been burnt and vandalised,” Luguhudu laments.
Alhaji Abubakar Sani, who has four wives and 13 children, also decries the violence, particularly the loss of lives and properties, observing that the Shasha Market was a bush before the Hausa people migrated there in 1979.
“Even if the market is fixed or not, we are not going back there again, that place is not convenient for us.”
On her own part, Aminatu Kolade, a foodstuff seller, who also lost over N10 million worth of goods, says there is a need for the state government to come to their aid, stressing the loss is beyond what they could bear.
In his appeal to the government, the Babaloja says there is a need for the government to rebuild the market and also give succour to the traders who have lost their sources of income.
“These traders live on their income from the market but it is pathetic that they have lost everything overnight to a crisis that is avoidable.”
Crisis, loss of properties and lives avoidable ― Experts
Experts have described the crisis as avoidable.
Moses Abolade, the Executive Director, Peace Education and Practice Network (PEPNET) says the crisis was because of what he describes as, “peace education deficit”.
Abolade says the loss of lives and properties occasioned by the crisis could have been avoided if the parties involved had any form of peace education before now.
“In a heterogeneous environment like Shasha, there is need for the government and stakeholders to always ensure the residents and traders are exposed to peace education.”
It is through peace education that people will learn how to tolerate one another for peace to reign, he adds.
Timothy Avele, the managing director, Agent-X Security Ltd, who also acknowledged the fact that the crisis was avoidable, blames it on the laxity of the security agencies in the state.
“The security agencies through actionable intelligence should have known about this crisis and nipped it in the bud before it got out of hand by employing conflict resolution and management techniques.”
Government promises to compensate traders, rebuild market
Speaking with The ICIR, Hon. Olatunde Kehinde, the lawmaker representing Akinyele constituency 11 at the state House of Assembly, explains that the process to provide palliatives for traders who lost their shops during the clash had commenced.
“The governor has instructed the market executives that they should write the name of every individual that lost their shops and goods,” he says.
He adds that owners of buildings burnt during the clash will also be identified and “the governor will kindly do something.”
Similarly, the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) has expressed readiness to mobilise support for Governor Seyi Makinde to rebuild the market and to also compensate the traders.
Bagudu, who was in the company of three other northern governors ―Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano), Abubakar Bello (Niger) and Bello Matawalle (Zamfara) to the state for on the spot assessment gave the assurance.
“We are glad that the governor is rendering assistance and we the NGF are going to support him.”
* All photo credits to Niyi Oyedeji