The Association of Motor Spare Parts Dealers in Ladipo market has shut down the market over an alleged killing of traders by air force personnel on Tuesday.
Men of the Nigerian Air Force on Tuesday allegedly stormed the spare part market and shot at traders following an argument over a motor spare part purchased by a soldier.
Addressing the press on Wednesday, Jude Nwako, the president of spare part dealers in the market, said the incident was an unfortunate one because some traders lost their lives.
Meanwhile, only one death was confirmed by the market leaders, while three persons are said to be at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), receiving treatment for the gunshot injuries sustained.
“It is quite unfortunate that soldiers will come into the market and start shooting directly at traders like they are animals.
“It is getting out of hands, soldiers taking laws into their hands and we are here talking about Kickstarter worth of how much? N3,500. Somebody is dead which we don’t know how many have died, so many are still in the hospital,” Mr Nwako said.
The market leader said they met with army officials after the incident on Tuesday but the “intimidation in their office was so much.” He added that they are taking the matter to the highest authority.
“We decided to shut down the market to show the world, to show Nigerians what happened in Ladipo and solidarise with the person that died,” he said.
Mr Nwako said he could not make a statement on how long the market will be shut.
A trader, Achuku Ezenwa, who witnessed what led to the shooting, narrated the incident to journalists on Wednesday.
Mr Ezenwa said the incident happened at about 11:45 a.m. on Tuesday when some customers were making complaints at the public complaint committee of the market.
A man was complaining about some goods, then a man wearing a white long shirt with army camouflage and a pair of jeans came and said they should attend to him immediately.
Mr Ezenwa said the market officials explained that they needed to finish with the person before him and this led to an argument.
He added that the other customer also demanded urgent attention and the soldier told him to keep quiet.
The soldier was said to have approached the public complaint committee over a Kickstarter he purchased in January which cost between N3,500 and N4, 000.
“The officer left and after 10 minutes, he came back with OP Mesa and they started shooting,” he said.
He said all efforts to calm the situation failed as the officers kept shooting at traders, killing one instantly while others sustained injuries.
“People started running and throwing stones. People were running into their shops,” he said.
The market officials said intimidation and harrassment and intimidation by the military in the market has been a long-standing issue and mechanics and civilians now hire soldiers to threaten traders when transactions go wrong.
The market association called on the government and the army authority to investigate the matter.
RULAAC calls for impartial investigation
The Rule of Law And Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC) in a statement on Wednesday urged the Lagos state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, to look into the crisis.
Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu
Okechukwu Nwanguma, the executive director of RULAAC, said news of the attack and use of lethal weapons on traders is disturbing.
“There are conflicting accounts of what actually led to the invasion of the crowded market by militay personnel who came in OP MESSA Hillux Vans and started shooting live bullets directly at traders resulting to fatalities and injuries.
“But all accounts point to the fact that there was a dispute between a customer who purchased an auto spare part at the market and returned with the part demanding a replacement after the expiration of the warranty.
“The exact details of what actually led to the shooting need to be investigated. But we are concerned about the involvement of military personnel in what appears to be a civil dispute and the use of lethal weapons on unarmed civilians,” the group said.
RULAAC called on the Lagos State Governor to order an investigation with a view to unravelling the circumstances, identifying the perpetrators of this latest act of abuse of power and misuse of firearms.
Airforce denies shooting
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Air Force has denied shooting at traders in the Tuesday incident.
Edward Gabkwet, NAF spokesperson, said in a statement that NAF personnel attached to the Operation (OPs) MESA were at Ladipo market in response to a distress call.
“A call was put across by traders on a fight going on between a soldier of the Nigerian Army (NA) and a civilian debtor. Upon receipt of the call, the team moved to the market but was attacked by angry traders who pelted stones at them.
“Firstly, NAF personnel did not kill anyone. Moreover, it was one person that died not three. The information we have at the moment is that the NAF operatives who are attached to OPs MESA received a distress call that a soldier was having an issue with a debtor,” Mr Gabkwet said.
He added that the officers went into the market to restore peace and two operatives were injured in the process of maintaining peace in the market.
“We are going to investigate the incident to know what really happened. We will get to the root of the matter and if any of our operatives is found to have acted otherwise, they would be sanctioned accordingly,” he said.