13th November, 2012
Traders at the Aguiyi-Ironsi International Trade Centre at Ladipo, Mushin, Lagos State, Southwest Nigeria on Monday staged a peaceful protest against armed thugs known as Bakassi Boys that have taken over the market.
The traders went round some streets in Mushin with placards to protest against the presence of the thugs and appealed to the Lagos State government and security agents to come to their aid. The protest which lasted several hours ended at the Mushin Local Government secretariat where they handed over a protest letter to the council chairman, Mr. Babatunde Adepitan.
Speaking during the protest, a leader of the traders, Casmir Ulasi told Adepitan that despite the arrest and detention of the factional leader of the market, Jonathan Okoli, the thugs he allegedly brought from the east known as Bakassi Boys, have not only increased, they are now unleashing terror on the traders.
“We cannot enter the market because the thugs allegedly brought into the market by Okoli have fortified themselves and refused to leave the place,” he protested. Ulasi accused the thugs of terrorising the traders with arms such as guns, machete and other dangerous weapons. They also rob and extort money from them, he added.
Former secretary of the market, Anthony Nwanzelibe, described what is happening in the market as unacceptable.
He said that many traders are being subjected to inhuman treatment and chased out of the market. Another trader, Okey Imo, thanked the council chairman, Lagos State government and security agents for their efforts to sanitise the market. He said that more needed to be done because most of the traders are still outside and cannot enter the market because of the thugs there. Addressing the traders, Adepitan thanked them for their peaceful protest. He urged them to maintain peace while promising that their complaint would be forwarded to the relevant authorities for immediate action.
The market has witnessed leadership crises for the past three years during which some traders were attacked and injured.
One of the victims, 37-year old Ofoka Nnaji lost one of his fingers. Similarly, Solomon Eze and Ejike Maduabuchi nearly lost their lives during one of such attacks by the thugs.
Nwanzelibe who was secretatry to Okoli’s administration traced the crises in the market to the alleged inordinate ambition of the former leader to perpetuate himself in office. He said since the expiration of the tenure of his former boss, the market has not known peace.
The latest development was the arrest and arraignment of Okoli at an Ebute Metta Magistrate’s Court for his alleged involvement in terrorism, attempted murder, armed robbery, unlawful assembly, displaying of arms and extortion, among others. His plea was not taken.
The presiding Magistrate, Mrs. M.O. Olajuwon remanded him in prison custody at Ikoyi and ordered his file to be duplicated and sent to the office of the Director of Public Prosecution, DPP, for advice. The matter was adjourned till 3 December, 2012. P.M. NEWS learnt that Okoli’s counsel has gone to an Ikeja High Court to file an application for his bail.
— Cyriacus Izuiekwe