The Iron Rod Dealers Association, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, would endlessly remember the ordeal their members and others went through in the hands of the Rivers State Taskforce on Street Trading. On Thursday, August 18, 2022, members of the taskforce swooped into the association’s market otherwise known as Kala Building Materials Market, Rumuokwuta Port Harcourt, and attacked, brutalized many traders in the market.
The time was 11.00 am. The heavily armed members of the taskforce led by an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), on arrival at the market, started shooting sporadically into the air; forcing innocent traders, including food vendors to scamper into safety.
The armed taskforce members numbering about thirty destroyed all the vehicles within the area, vandalized and carted away some movable wares of the traders, and literally turned the market into a heap of rubble.
Neither the ASP who led the team nor any member of the taskforce could adduce reasons why the market was raided.
Narrating her ordeal in the hands of the ferocious taskforce members, Miss Chinasa Nwosu, a food vendor, said: “This morning, a group of Rivers state taskforce men numbering about 30, drove inside the market in several pickup vans, and subsequently rushed inside my shop shooting sporadically
“They forcefully carted away all the food I prepared to sale today, three cooler of rice, the stew, all the money I had so far made today from 4.00 am. They broke my show-glass, took phone, and beat up my customers, and proceeded to smash the windscreen of cars packed within the vicinity of my shop. They also carted away all the expensive hot drinks, as well as destroyed about 40 crated of beer in my shop.
The Police and Civil Defense officers that accompanied the taskforce members shot sporadically into the air, and in the process allowed the taskforce men to loot several shops in the market. So many people were injured, and nobody challenged the intruders.
A petty trader who simply gave her name as Sister Patricia, described the conduct of the taskforce men as barbaric, saying that they behaved and acted like terrorists, even as she pleaded with the state government to issue the taskforce members with civilised rules of engagement.
“ I escaped for my life when the shooting started, and when I returned, the taskforce men had emptied my cooler containing several types of drinks. The taskforce people acted like terrorists. It was terrible. I have never seen this type of thing before. The state government should advise them on a better way of carrying out their duty,” she said.
Mr. Ebere Obi, a member of the union who sustained serious injuries during the fracas said: As I was sitting at Chinasa’s Canteen, members of the Rivers state taskforce on street trading came into the market and started shooting, and smashing everything that they came across. When I asked to know what was going on, they started beating me. They stabbed me several times all over my body with broken bottles. I cannot remember when we had disagreement with them.”
Mr. Chinedu Nwosu, and his wife who came to the market to purchase building materials recounted their woes in the hands of the taskforce men. According to Chinedu, the sum of N2.7 million which his wife kept in the car, and which they would have used to buy building materials was removed by the taskforce men when they ran into safety following the shooting and the accompanying pandemonium.
He said: ”Myself and my wife came to this market to buy rods. My wife came with her Sienna car, and I came with mw Avalon Toyota car. As we got here, I saw a group of boys said to be members of the Rivers state taskforce on street trading. They came with several pick-up vans, and immediately on arrival, they started shooting and smashing everything in the market. They smashed the windscreens of my two cars, and took away N2.7 million kept in my wife’s car., I came to buy I have never experienced anything like this in my life. I don’t know who is going pay for all the destruction in this market.”
Comrade Chukwuemeka Davidson, Chairman of Iron Rod Dealers Association, said the ugly incident was avoidable if the taskforce had recognized the existence of his union in the market. He described his members as law abiding citizens, adding that they pay all the fees and levies demanded by the state government.. He called on the relevant authorities to come to the aid of his members.
“This attack is first of its kind in this market. We were here this morning when the team of Rivers state taskforce came. We were expecting them to approach the union if they had any challenge in the course of doing their work here. I approached them to know what the issue was, but one of them slapped me. What they did was to break to break the beer bottles they saw here, and thereafter, used the broken bottles to stab people here, as well as smash vehicles; shooting sporadically. I rushed to Kala Police Station, and asked the police to come to our rescue. The Police said there was nothing they could do at that time. The team leader is an Assistant Supritendent of Police. They called him Africa. The police at Kala Police Station said they could have intervened if the team leader was a civilian.
“There were pandemonium in this vicinity, everybody ran away for their safety. They damaged our customers vehicle, including lorries that brought goods from Onitsha to the market. If you look around, you will see them. A lot of vehicles were damaged. We are confused as we don’t know the reason behind the raid of the market.
“We are law abiding in our activities in the state. We pay all the fees and levies approved by the local and state government;, we have never defaulted in any, and so we are surprised and pained that the taskforce members treated us the way they did.”