TRADERS at the Dei-Dei building materials market in Abuja are counting their losses following a violent clash with okada riders which resulted in the destruction of shops and goods on Wednesday.
During a visit to the market on Thursday, traders, who gathered in clusters, told The ICIR that beyond the lives lost, goods worth billions of naira were destroyed during the attack.
Founder, El Cassa Interior and Furniture, Olufemi Seth Olorunyomi, whose factory was razed down during the crisis described the incident as devastating. He said he lost goods worth more than N60 million naira as a result of the attack.
“It is devastating, that’s all I can say. But where there is life, there is hope. The losses cannot be less than N60 million, but business has to move on, so we hope to start consulting. Partners are already calling to see how they can come in to salvage and create some shock absorber,” he said.
His wife and co-owner of the company, Bimbo Seth, also expressed sadness over the incident.
“It is eleven years gone down in one hour. You are seeing the pictures, but there is more to it. It is like hard work. In the country where I am, I still can’t move an inch and not get hurt. These are resources down the drain in less than one hour. I just hope that I wake up and my head is still intact by tomorrow, because I can’t explain it,” she said.
Olorunyomi, a father of three, said he was hopeful of some assistance as officials of the Abuja Market Agency had been to the market and requested for the value of the goods lost.
“We just had a brief meeting with the Abuja Market Agency. They left a while ago and the Managing Director has instructed that they do a comprehensive report on the cost and value of items and materials that have been lost here.
“We will be working with the management of the Timber Shed to put up the report and we hope that we’ll get help,” he said.
Also recounting what transpired during the violent clash, Vice- Chairman of the Timber Shed Market, Ifeanyi Chigbata,told The ICIR that over 20 vehicles were burnt by the rampaging okada riders.
“Yesterday was a very sad day. You know okada men with their attitude. Whenever things like this happen, some of them may not like to know the exact cause of the situation. So they surrounded the place, and began to make trouble. There are about 20 vehicles that were burnt down yesterday at the garage,” he said.
Many other traders expressed dissatisfaction over the closure of the market. They wondered why the okada riders, who had unleashed mayhem at the market, were left to go about their businesses.
“As far as I am concerned, the market is not at fault in this case. It is an outside case, not a market case. This is something that happened along the road, so shutting down the market is not the best option. Some of us have families. The minister needs to think twice about his decision,” one of the traders said.
The trader added that rather than shut down market operations, the FCT minister should stop okada riders from plying the route.
He observed that the okada riders initiated the attack.
The Deputy Commissioner of Police Fom Pam Joseph, while speaking on the issue, told The ICIR that the traders have shown a desire to cooperate with security operatives.
He said investigations have commenced.
“We have gone to all the affected areas and we have commenced investigations. The DPO is currently carrying out preliminaries and as soon as he’s done, the case will be transferred to the State CID for a more discreet investigation.
“I see the desire to cooperate from them, because you can’t carry out a business in an environment that is not peaceful. So from all factions, that desire is there to allow peace to reign, so that the market can quickly be opened for business,” he said.
Pam, however, noted that restricting movement of okada riders was not within the control of the police, adding that there was no reason yet to impose such restriction.
“The issue of stoppage of movement is not within the purview of the police. However, for now, we have not seen any bike man behaving in an unruly or unlawful manner. So we don’t see any reason for now in this instance to advice that they be stopped from plying,” he said.
Civil unrest had erupted at the Building Materials market in Dei-Dei on Wednesday leading to the death of at least four people.
The ICIR learnt that the crisis began after a motorcycle rider, conveying a female passenger, fell on the road in an attempt to overtake a trailer, leading to her death.
“What happened is that an okada man who was carrying a pregnant woman wanted to overtake a trailer so an accident happened and the woman died.
“The incident happened where they sell building materials. They burnt his machine and he went and called his people. They came and started burning shops and warehouses,” a resident, Abdullahi, told The ICIR.
The crisis resulted in the razing of shops and properties with many residents scampering for safety.
Following the incident, the FCT minister Mohammed Bello ordered the closure of the market and placed a ban on roadside trading.
“While commending the efforts of the security agencies and community leaders for their efforts in containing the violence, Mallam Bello prayed for the repose of the souls of those who lost their lives and ordered the immediate closure of the timber market and adjoining markets.
“In the same vein, Mallam Bello also ordered the immediate ban on all trading activities along the road sides and directed that all transactions be carried out within the shops,” a statement issued by the Ministry of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) said.
The minister, according to the statement, also promised to improve the security situation within the market.
“Reacting to a request by one of the market leaders that the police presence in the market be improved, the minister pledged that the police post in the market will be upgraded and the FCT Administration will provide the needed support while the police commissioner equally pledged more personnel,” the statement added.