A growing crisis is unfolding within the newly established Enugu International Building Materials Market, commonly known as New Kenyatta in Ugwuaji, Enugu. The source of tension stems from allegations of continuous brutality and humiliation inflicted upon traders by soldiers assigned to secure the market.
Concerned stakeholders in the market have urgently appealed to the General Officer Commanding the 82 Division of the Nigerian Army in Enugu, seeking redress and warning of potential confrontations and protests if such abuses persist.
During a recent visit to the market, our correspondent noted the presence of both soldiers and policemen. It was revealed that the developers of the market had enlisted soldiers to safeguard the premises, ostensibly to protect their interests. However, traders voiced grievances, asserting that the soldiers had exceeded their mandate and begun mistreating and humiliating them.
An anonymous trader disclosed, “Since we relocated to this market last year, soldiers have been the ones guarding the market. Recently, the soldiers have resorted to brutalizing traders and openly humiliating people for what they perceive as insubordination.” The trader highlighted incidents where soldiers, responsible for enforcing the 6 pm market closure rule, went beyond their duties, subjecting individuals to severe punishment.
The trader continued, recounting a distressing incident: “Last Thursday, a trader with a stomach ailment sought refuge in unoccupied shops to relieve himself. A soldier discovered him, subjected him to physical abuse, stripped him, and forced him to use his bare hands to clean up. The soldier then paraded the trader within the market, holding the waste in his hands for over an hour. This is an intolerable level of humiliation.”
Concerns were raised by traders who, despite approaching market leaders for intervention, found the developers insisting that the soldiers were deployed at their behest. The traders fear that if unchecked, the soldiers may escalate their aggression, potentially resulting in fatal consequences.
Another trader highlighted the soldiers’ habit of threatening to shoot anyone asserting their rights, emphasizing the need for urgent intervention by the market developers and the Commander of the 82 Division of the Nigerian Army.
Efforts to obtain reactions from the developers or market leaders proved futile at the time of reporting. In response to the unfolding situation, Major Eromosele Unuakhalu, the spokesperson for the 82 Division of the Nigerian Army in Enugu, assured that he would investigate the matter and provide an appropriate response. As of the report’s filing, his response was awaited.
IMAGE: The Guardian