Enugu traders protest maltreatment by soldiers

A crisis is brewing in the newly established Enugu International Building Materials Market, otherwise known as New Kenyatta, Ugwuaji, Enugu state over allegations of continuous brutality and humiliation of traders by soldiers posted to guard the market.

Stakeholders in the market are urging the General Officer Commanding, 82 Division of Nigeria Army, Enugu, to call his men to order, warning that such abuses might result in aggressive confrontation.

Since the market was established two years ago, soldiers and police officers were deployed to provide security by developers of the market. However, the traders are rejecting the presence of soldiers who they said have acted beyond the reason they were deployed to the market with the recent increase in cases of maltreatment and humiliation from the officers.

A trader, who pleaded anonymity said: “Since we relocated to this market last year, soldiers have been the ones guarding the market. But recently the soldiers have resorted to brutalising the traders and often openly humiliate people on account of what they consider insubordination.

“The soldiers have since taken it upon themselves to be flogging people who were not able to close their shops before 6: p.m. The soldiers maltreat people. Again, recently a trader with a running stomach rushed towards the end of an unoccupied shop to ease himself, before you know it, one of the soldiers saw him and started flogging him. He stripped him and still forced him to use his bare hands to pack the mess,” the trader said.

The trader further disclosed that they have asked their market leaders to find out why the soldiers should continue to stay in the marketplace, but the developers insisted that the soldiers were brought at their own instance.

Another trader in the market told The Guardian that the soldiers are always fond of threatening to shoot anyone who tries to stand up to his right in the market.

He said: “Nobody in this market is a miscreant but the soldiers keep treating people as if we are touts. Unfortunately, all the people we elected to lead us in the market seem to be comfortable with the way the soldiers are brutalising us at any slightest provocation. They will always threaten to shoot anyone who complains openly.

“So, I’m calling on the developers and the commander 82 Division of the Nigerian Army to act fast before these soldiers turn our peaceful marketplace to a slaughterhouse”.

Efforts to get reactions from the developers or market leaders were unsuccessful.

However, responding to the allegation, spokesperson for the 82 Division of Nigeria Army, Enugu, Louis Col. Jonah Unuakhalu, said he would find out and respond appropriately.

As at the time of filing this report, he was yet to get back on the matter.