By Vincent Ujumadu
AWKA- THE women of Abba Community in Njikoka local government area of Anambra State have made a passionate appeal to the state government to save them from the Nigeria Police Force, which they claimed, had laid siege in the town’s weekly market, thereby denying them their means of livelihood.The Abba Women trading on road side after they were chased way from their Oye Market
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The ordeal began penultimate week when they went to the market only to meet a large number of policemen occupying the entire market. Their attempt to enter the market through other routes resulted in the police using teargas to disperse them.
The women, clad in black attire, later embarked on a peaceful protest to the Government House in Awka, where a representative of Governor Willie Obiano assured them that government would look into the matter with a view to finding a lasting solution to the problem.
Thinking that their problem was over, the women went to the market last Friday, only for them to meet another large number of police. They then went to the community’s town square, where they displayed their wares. It was there that they lamented their ordeal to the South East Voice and called on the government and the Inspector General of Police to save them from those behind their ordeal.
Sixty seven year old Mrs. Obiageli Onunkwo said she had never experienced something like that since she was married over 45 years ago, adding that she had been trading there without molestation over the years.
She said: “I went to the Oye Market only for the police to drive me away. I am usually one of the first persons to come to the market because I sell vegetables which attract buyers from neighbouring communities. However, these buyers were stopped at the Enugu –Onitsha expressway by the police and they had to go back, thereby making me to sustain great losses. What did we do to merit this treatment? Why do they want us to starve to death?”
Another woman, Mrs. Marry Ann Okeke said the place they displayed their items at the heart of the town was very dangerous as there could be accidents there since it is on the road side. “This place is not convenient for us to display our wares. You can see that this is a road side and we are exposed to accidents here. It is unfortunate that we were chased away from our market where we have been trading over the years,” she said.
Mr. Arthur Chukwuemeka, who was seen directing the women on how to manage the small space where they were trading, described what the community was passing through as wickedness of the highest order. He said: “It is not as if we built this market on another community’s land. This is a place we inherited from our fore fathers and even neighbouuring communities have been coming to the market to trade too.
“They are using the police to intimidate us and there is nothing we can do on our own. Our only hope is for the Anambra State government to intervene in this matter and save our people the ordeal of living in fear in our community. With the police barricade on the road leading to Abba, people are now afraid to visit our community even for other purposes and we do not know when this siege will end.”
Also speaking on the issue, Mr. Emeka Ezepue said: “We feel very bad about this development. Look at the poor women who purchased perishable commodities for sale, only for the police to stop them from entering the market and this is what they depend on for their sustenance. It is difficult to find out why another community should want to annex another community in this day and age and security operatives, who we expect to save us, are the ones intimidating us. We are presently living in fear.”
According to him, four persons from the community were arrested in the early hours of Friday, adding that they were picked up in their houses and taken to unknown destination.
“The policemen came in four hilux vans and what this means is that we no longer have freedom of movement in Abba,” Ezepue said.
Some of the policemen, who stationed their vehicles around the market, told South East Voice that their presence was to maintain law and order in the area.