A NUMBER of crises that threatened the ethnic and religious cohesion of Nigerians reared their ugly heads last week. Apart from the “blasphemy” killing of Deborah Samuel in Sokoto and the gruesome burning of David Imoh in Lekki Lagos, a clash between traders and commercial motorcyclists (Okada) led to the “indefinite” closure of the Dei-Dei International Market, Abuja.
The market clash followed the death of an unnamed female Okada passenger due to alleged reckless riding.
The rider’s apprehension by some traders at the market prompted a reinforcement by armed hoodlums who attacked the traders, killed four, set the market ablaze and looted shops.
This crisis should have been nipped in the bud if we had a trusted, proactive and capable security system. Eventually, the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mohammed Bello, arrived with top officials of the police and other security agencies to inspect the damage. He ordered the market’s closure and an investigation.
Unfortunately, government again failed to protect lives and property which is its primary responsibility. However, we support the closure of the market to restore peace and investigate the circumstances leading to the breakdown of law and order.
It would have been irresponsible to allow activities to continue while the smoke of conflict still swirled.
The action the Minister took is akin to curfews that governors declare when such activities take place in the states.
We would also want to believe that there was nothing ethnic in closing the market.
Although the clash was between mainly Igbo traders (who control activities in the building materials market) and Okada riders who are mostly of Northern stock, there are traders in the market from other ethnic backgrounds who offer other varieties of goods and services.
Hausa traders, for example, sell foodstuff there. We agree with the FCT Minister that these groups coexisted peacefully before the Okada men brought the crisis.
What matters most is how diligently and professionally the investigation is conducted and what the authorities do with its outcome.
It is also important that these government actions are taken as quickly as possible and justice done in a manner that restores faith in the system.
The earlier the market is reopened the better because many of the people who make their living there are artisans who live from day to day.
They must not be subjected to the double punishment of losing their goods and being kept off their livelihoods. A package of compensation should be part of the wound healing by government. The various market leaders should be held to account for any further breakdown of law and order. It is shocking that a market of that magnitude lacked adequate security support. Government must pay for its failure by fully compensating for the losses.