Clement Nnachi, Abakaliki
One person was feared dead and several others wounded at the Abakpa Main Market, Abakaliki the Ebonyi State capital, on Wednesday, following clashes that erupted between traders and Revenue officials over payment of Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).
It was gathered that the death of the trader resulted to rioting and vandalization of shops allegedly belonging to market leaders working with the government.
An eye witness who preferred anonymity said that trouble started when the Special Assistant to Governor David Umahi on Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) and the Commissioner for Internal Security and Border Peace, Mr. Stanley Emegha led some youths to collect the IGR from some traders in the market.
The eye witness 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.
According to him,” the traders had gone to court to challenge the removal of the market leadership before the expiration of their tenure and imposition of a new intérim leadership on them by the state government.”
“They came to the market and were taken to the shops of the traders that took the government to court and they started closing their shops accusing them of not paying IGR”.
” One of the sons 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 conciousness”.
It was gathered that the traders immediately mobilized and attacked the IGR team and beat some of them up while others escaped.
“They went to the shop of one of the leaders believed to be working with the government and attempted to vandalise it when Police arrived and chased them away.
In an interview, the Ebonyi State Police Public Relations Officer, Loveth Odah (DSP) 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.
Speaking on the development, the Chairman of Ekubaraoha Youth Assembly who doubles as Governor Umahi’s Special Assistant on Youth Mobilisation Mr. Mark 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”, he said
Also speaking on the issue, the State Commissioner for Internal Security, Mr Stanley Emegha denied that anyone was killed.
He confirmed that he in company with the Special Assistant on IGR, Martin’s Okwuegbu went to the market to seal some shops.
According to him, five shops were sealed for various reasons ranging from refusal to pay IGR and usage of the shops for criminal activities in the market.
He denied knowledge of any fracas or death adding that the exercise was peaceful.
“We sealed the shops and left peacefully. I am just hearing from you that someone died. Nothing like that happened while we were there”, he said.
Mr Okwuegbu denied that the exercise was used to victimise some traders opposed to the government action on the market leadership.