The continued detention of over 30 traders from Nnewi market by the Anambra State Police Command following the clash on Friday between the police and the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) has led to a total shutdown of businesses in Nnewi, Nnewi North Local Government Area of the state.
IPOB members had gathered at the Nkwo market arena in Nnewi, wielding placards and Biafran flags to celebrate the reappearance of their leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, when police stormed the place, leading to a fracas.
Subsequently, the police claimed that a police Inspector was killed in the process.
Though, IPOB dismissed the claim as false, the police made a mass arrest of people they claimed were IPOB members.
As a result of the mass arrest, eight major markets in the industrial city of Nnewi was on Tuesday shut down, leading to complete paralysis of business and economic activities
The traders numbering over 10,000 traders, whose shops were under lock and key demanded for an unconditional release of their members, insisting that they were not members of the pro-Biafran group as labelled.
Chairman of Agboedo Motor Spare Parts Dealers Association (AMSPDA), Chief Gabriel Chibueze, who took journalists round the market to show them the shops of the arrested members, insisted that the detained persons were traders.
He noted that the arrested traders could not have been involved in the crisis, adding that the location the protest took place was off from the location of the market.
He said: “We invited the press to help us tell the whole world that the arrest ed persons were not members of the IPOB. They are genuine traders doing their legitimate business.
“The place the protest took place is far from the market. In order to ensure the fracas doesn’t escalate to the market, we the executive closed down all entrances leading to the market while our members continued their business.
“Suddenly, we saw a combined team of Police and army who broke the gate of the bank in the market and started beating our members. They arrested both masters and their apprentices.
“We quickly rushed to the Area command where we made a complaint but the Area Commander turned down our complaint, saying we will put him in trouble.”
Chibueze revealed that the initial number of traders arrested were forty-three, adding that only thirty-three of them were later paraded by the police two days later.
He vowed that until their colleagues were unconditionally released immediately, that the market would remain under lock and key.
The Chairman appealed to Nnewi Police Area Commander, the Anambra State Commissioner of Police, the Inspector General of Police, and Governor Obiano to order the immediate release of the Nnewi traders.
He added: “If they are not released, shutting down of the market would be extended to the state and the entire South East.”
On his part, the chairman, Nnewi North Local Government Area, Prince Chukwudi Orizu, said he was nearly slain by a live bullet in the cause of the fracas.
“The arrested persons are genuine traders. It’s a very bad thing for the state. We are losing a lot especially in view of the Christmas season when shopping is at its peak. It’s not a good image to see all the market in Nnewi shut down,” he said.
In his reaction, the commissioner for Trade and Commerce, Dr. Christian Madubuko, said that efforts were on to ensure normalcy returns to the market.
He described the incident as unfortunate, saying: “It is very unfortunate at what is happening here. We don’t encourage violence of any sort.
“I was here yesterday for hours and met with the market leaders, dialoguing and seeking for solution to the problem. I went from shop to shop and from the way they spoke, the traders are bitter, especially the women whose husbands were arrested. I consoled with them.”
While stating that it was not his place to determine who was at fault in the fracas, the commissioner maintained that the arrested traders were innocent of the crime they were incarcerated for.
His words: “I can speak authoritatively that the people arrested here are genuine traders. While we seek a solution, I appeal to traders to calm down.
“The State Government is on it and I can assure you that with the sagacity of our governor and AMATA leadership, we’ll come out with a positive report that everyone will be happy about.
“We won’t let Nnewi people down and the economy of the state, because this place means a lot to the state and shutting it down, is already dealing with the state. That’s exactly what we want to prevent. We don’t want this to go further.”
One of the affected traders, Deacon John Obiagwu, who spoke with News Express, said two of his boys were among those arrested by the police.
He said: “We were packing our goods when the police together with the army stormed the market. They pointed gun at me and I joined others to run for my life.
“They forced my shop open and saw my wife, a woman with a baby and my two boys. It was the cry of the baby that attracted them to my shop.
“They ordered my wife and a lady to hands up before they took my boys away.
“I’m still in shock as I speak with you because this is the first time I’m seeing this type of thing since over twenty years I started trading.”