Economic activities were on Tuesday paralysed in Nnewi and its environs in Anambra State following the closure of markets by traders in the area in protest of some of their members arrested by the police during a clash with the Indigenous People of Biafra.
Our correspondent learnt that no fewer than eight major markets were closed in the protest involving about 10,000 traders.
The traders demanded unconditional release of their members, insisting that they were not members of the pro-Biafran group as labelled by the police.
The Chairman of Motor Spare Parts Dealers Association, Gabriel Chibueze, who conducted journalists round the market showed them the shops of the arrested members, maintaining that those arrested and paraded by the police as IPOB members were “genuine traders”.
He said, “We invited the press to help us tell the world that the arrested persons were not members of the IPOB. They are genuine traders doing their legitimate business in Nnewi markets.
He said the arrested traders could not have been involved in the fracas, saying the location of the fracas was not close to the market.
“The place the protest took place is far from the market. In order to ensure the fracas doesn’t escalate to the market, we the executive closed down all entrances leading to the market while our members continued their business.
“Suddenly, we saw a combined team of police and the army who broke the gate of the bank in the market and started beating our members. They arrested both masters and their apprentices.
“We quickly rushed to the Area command where we made a complaint but the Area Command turned down our complaint, saying we will put him in trouble.
He said the “Initial number of traders arrested were 43, but 33 of them were later paraded by the police.
While demanding the immediate and unconditional release of his members, the chairman insisted that the market would continue to be under locks until they were set free.
“We appeal to Nnewi Police Area Commander, the Anambra State Commissioner of Police, the Inspector General of Police and Governor Obiano to order the immediate release of the Nnewi traders.
“If they are not released, shutting down of the market would be extended to the state and the entire South East.
The state commissioner for Trade and commerce, Dr. Christian Madubuko described the incident as unfortunate, assuring that efforts were on to ensure normalcy returned to the markets.
He said, “It is very unfortunate at what is happening here. We don’t encourage violence of any sort.
“I was here on Monday for hours and met with the market leaders, dialoguing and seeking a solution to the problem.
“I went from shop to shop and from the way they spoke, the traders are embittered, especially the women whose husbands were arrested.”
Acknowledging that it was not his duty to determine who was at fault in the fracas, the commissioner absorbed the arrested traders from the incident.
He said, “I can speak authoritatively that the people arrested here are genuine traders. While we seek a solution, I appeal to traders to calm down.”
By Tony Okafor, Awka