By Patience Ogbo
Zanat Akerodolu, a business woman in Shasha market is currently in shock and could not believe that her provision and beverage stalls worth millions of Naira are now in ruins and have been reduced to few damaged bottles and scraps.
Akeredolu, a mother of three stood in front of what used to be a flourishing business store and a source of livelihood for her family and could not hold back tears. She had cried her eyes out and her voice had become croak. Her fellow businesswomen and her friends were seen consoling her but she could not hold back the tears and pain as she screamed ‘Who did I offend?’
Her friends held her so she would not collapse. Her agony was too obvious to ignore. She continued “Where will I get money to start again?”
She was speaking to nobody in particular. She went on “All these goods were gotten with loans from bank, from contributions and other sources. How do I repay these loans and provide for my family?, she asked.
After a while, she summoned courage and was ready for the interview. She began, “I was in my Shop on Friday when we started hearing shouts. We locked our shops up. I had two shops. A provision and soft drinks shops. I locked them up and ran for my dear life.
“However, two hours later, I recieved a call that shops were being burnt in Shasha market. I quickly got up and started looking for motorcycle or vehicle to take me there so I could save my goods. I had gone to stock the shop up on Monday with goods worth about N400,000.
“When I got to the market, I was in shock. They had looted my provision shop and burnt down the soft drink shop. They looted my deep freezer. My freezers and all my provision like biscuits before they went on to burn the shops. I am left with nothing.
“I got money from bank, from contribution and friends to buy the goods and this is the only source of income my family and I are surviving on”.
Investigation by our correspondent revealed the source of the mayhem.
One Mrs. Bashir, a fashion designer, said she lost her business to the mayhem. She narrated what led to the burning of the market and killing of traders.
“This problem stated on Thursday. A pregnant Yoruba woman accused a Hausa man who is a load carrier at the market of splashing rotten tomotoes water on her but the Hausa load carrier refused to apologise to the pregnant Yoruba woman. “The pregnant woman kept following him and was demanding an apology but the Hausa man pushed her and she fell. There was this shoe repairer that witnessed what transpired and he held the loader to apologise to the woman and cautioned him against laying his hands on pregnant women again, but the loader refused and that was how he used his fist which had a ring to punch the shoe repairer in the throat.
“The man fell backwards with blood dripping from his nose. Other shoe repairers rushed him to the hospital and they took the Hausa man to the Baale (Chief).
“The matter was settled that day but, on Friday, news filtered into the market that the shoe repairer had died as a result which made some Yorubas pounced on any Hausa and anyone that looked like an Hausa . The said man that died is the chairman of the shoe repairers so the members were vexed”
Another trader, who identifed herself as Mummy Idrisu said, “This is true but we learnt that the pregnant woman also died. The Yorubas attacked the Hausa over the deaths and some people died.
“That same evening, some Hausa youth mobilised in their number and they started attacking the traders with sticks, broken bottles and other dangerous weapon.We fled but by the time we came back, they had looted and burnt every shop.”
Mrs. Bashir, while counting her looses, accused the security agents of looking away while the looting and burning spree lasted.
She continued, “I am in great pains. I lost four sewing machines and fabrics including customers clothes. I did not pick a pin from my shop.
“The soldiers were around when the looting and burning spree were going on. When we told them to stop the Hausa men from burning our shops, the soldiers told us that we should go and look for Hausa traders’ shop and burn them too.
“They watched while these men finished us. We are now left with nothing. I am empty. I need help. Nigerians should come to my rescue”.
Another businessman, Sarafudeen Fatia, said his family lost three shops to the crisis. He was seen lamenting and calling for help while the fellow traders were consoling him.
According to him, “I was born and brought up in Shasha community. I am a fashion designer and I had a shop in Shasha market. My mother had a provision shop and my wife too has her own provision shop but our three shops were looted and burnt down.
“We are left with nothing. I had three sewing machines. One industrial machine and two manual but they were looted. The Hausa youth had a field day.
“They came here for three days to loot and burnt down while the soldiers were watching. We tried to move into the market to savage our property but the soldiers did not allow us in. “Whereas, the Hausa youths were gathered inside the market and this gave them the opportunity to destroy our property. My family need help. We are left with nothing. Government should come to our aid “.
SWAfrica News correspondent, while moving round the market, saw traders trying to salvage what was left of their property. Some were loading burnt roofing sheets into vehicles while others were standing discussing their loses and the way forward for them.
Scavengers were seen pulling burnt items while men of the Nigeria Army code name Operation Burst were present. Officers of the Oyo State police command code name Operation Flush, Police Constabulary, vigilance groups and officials of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corp (NSCDC) were also stationed in the community.
Investigations, however, revealed that Shasha community and neighbouring Ojoo and Moniya communities had been without police presence since the #ENDSARS protest last October which the residents conspired and burnt down police station and police Posts in their communities not to mention the killing of policemen.
A visit to the Ojoo Divisional Police Station showed that the station was burnt down as well as patrol vehicles while the DPO was said to be murdered in cold blood with other policemen suffering various degrees of injuries and loses in the aftermath of the endsars protest.
As a result, It was gathered that the policemen were redeployed from the communities as others do not have stations to return to.
Therefore, when the crisis started in Shasha market, there was no police station close by to respond swiftly to the traders’ distress.
A manager in one of the petrol stations, Ahaji Kamorodeen said, “The Ojoo police station is the closest station to Sasa market but the station was burnt down during the endsars protest. Some policemen were killed while others have redeployed themselves.
“Whenever there is robbery or any crime, we have no station to report to. On that fateful day , the policemen could not respond to the burning of the Shasha market but those deployed there have job apathy.
“They were sitting in the vans looking while the mayhem was going on. They said they cannot go and stop the looting for people who killed their colleagues and burnt down police stations. Despite my pleas to them , they still refused to go to Shasha market to help the traders. “.