COVID-19: Instead Of Protecting Us, Security Agents Are Destroying Our Only Sources Of Livelihood, Nigerian Petty Traders Cry Out

April 24, 2020
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Petty traders in Nigeria have cried out after being harassed by security operatives put in place to enforce the lockdown order instituted by government to curtail the spread of Coronavirus in the country.

In many parts of the country, security operatives enforcing the lockdown have taken laws into their hands by violently harassing and destroying items belonging to traders, some of whom are categorised as essential services providers as a result of the purpose they serve.

For example, at the start of the lockdown in March, policemen attached to the Lagos State Task Force on Environmental and Special Offences Enforcement Unit stormed a yet-to-be identified area and shattered many crates of beer, pulling down doors and other items in the process of chasing traders out of their shops.

Shortly after the video of that incident went viral, the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammad Adamu, directed that the case be investigated and all policemen involved arrested.

While sharing his own experience, Abdulateef Arowojobe, a wholesale vegetable seller at the Mile 12 market in Lagos, said that the display of the policemen in the viral video was similar to what he experienced in his stall on April 4, 2020.

He said, “Usually the task force in this area do ask us for money almost on a daily basis and so that day I came to the market and was selling as usual. Around 1:30pm, I started to clear the front of my stall to go home when the task force came.

“They started throwing things on the ground and people started running in panic. They entered came to my stall and took two baskets of tomatoes.

“That incident set me back and now I am in debt and just managing myself.”

A trader Alice Akhide, who sells soup ingredients at the Garri Market in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, was bundled from her makeshift shop by the roadside shop on April 11 for offences, which was never disclosed to her.

Speaking in Pidgin English, she told SaharaReporterson Friday that, “I was just sitting down and counting money from my apron when they came.

“The task force officials said Governor Wike said everybody should stay at home.

“People started running but I couldn’t run, so they put me at the back of their car drove off. When we got to King Jaja Street, they stopped and asked me to give them something.

“I told them they were like my children and that I didn’t have anything but they said something must drop.

“At the end, they collected N5000 from me before releasing me to go for committing no offence.

“I had to beg money from our women’s cooperative to open shop two days later. I want Wike and everybody to help me so that hunger will not kill me. The small thing I am managing, they have collected it from me.”

The brutality of law enforcement agents enforcing the lockdown against petty traders perhaps became more pronounced on Thursday evening in Port Harcourt when a policewoman trying to stop the COVID-19 Task Force team from destroying wares belonging to petty traders was shot and killed by a policeman attached to the team.

The incident was said to have happened at Eneka Town under Obio-Akpo Local Government Area of the state at about 5pm on Thursday. 

Commissioner of Police in the state, Joseph Mukan, who confirmed the development, said the policeman attached to the task force team misused his weapon.

He said, “A policeman attached to the task force did the shooting.

“He was shooting anyhow and in the process killed another policewoman. The policewoman was hit by a stray bullet.”

Mukan said the policeman was immediately arrested, disarmed and subjected to orderly room trial.

Other petty traders, who spoke with SaharaReporters all expressed concerns on how law enforcement agents were destroying their sources of livelihoods in the name of restricting movement as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak. 

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