THERE was tension in Ebonyi State after traders marching to Government House, Abakaliki, were chased back by anti-riot policemen with teargas canisters, yesterday.
Many of the protesters sustained injuries during the stampede that ensued with some of them lying on the ground, gasping and shouting for help.
Chanting anti-government slogans, the protesters comprising men, women and youths had earlier blocked major roads in Abakaliki metropolis before they were accosted by policemen who succeeded in beating them back. But the traders said there was no going back on their resolve to resist what they called ‘extortion’ by the state government.
Some of the protesters who spoke to newsmen said the bone of contention is the state government’s ’embargo’ on properties transactions within Kpirikpiri market.
Wondering on “what should concern Gov. David Umahi with who sells his or her shops in Kpirikpiri Market when he did not know when or how such shops were bought in the first place,” one of the traders who gave his name as Sylvester said that “traders will use any lawful means to compel Umahi to concentrate on his duties and leave them alone. If he uses police to intimidate us, we will find other means of making him to let us continue with our legitimate businesses without his meddling.”
But a statement later issued by Ebonyi State Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Uchenna Orji, said those “engaging police in fight are hoodlums hiding among Kpirikpiri traders to foment trouble in the market.”
According to Orji, the state government has warned against illegal selling and buying of lands and shops in the popular market and genuine traders have no business indulging in such racketeering.