There was tension at the Tonimas junction market in Osisioma Ngwa council area, Abia State as traders reportedly clashed with officials of the State Task Force on COVID-19.
While information about the incident was still sketchy, sources in the area told our reporter that the situation forced many traders to abandon their goods for safety.
The traders accused the officials of invading the market and destroying their ware without any cogent reason, a development that angered residents around the area.
But sources from the Government circles told our correspondent that the Task Force had stormed the market located along the Enugu –Port Harcourt expressway following refusal of the traders to obey government directive on the lockdown.
They said that while they were trying to enforce the orders, some hoodlums believed to be traders in the market mobilised and attacked the officials, damaging their vehicles and injuring some of them.
Transition Committee Chairman, Osisioma Ngwa LGA, Dr. Ikechukwu Nwabeke, said the team had visited the market in the company of the chairman Task Force on COVID -19, Dr. Solomon Ogunji, to sensitise the traders on the need to comply with government directive.
He however said they were confronted by hoodlums who started smashing the windscreen of vehicles in the convoy of the taskforce.
He dismissed reports that the task force destroyed the traders’ ware as false and urged the traders to comply with the order to shut markets in their interest.
“How could the taskforce destroy the goods of the traders when it was not even on enforcement? We had visited other markets without incidents. What happened was that some hoodlums joined the traders to attack the task force.
“They couldn’t let the task force address them. We left the area until the security arrived. So, there is no truth in any trader telling you that the task force destroyed their wares,” Nwabeke said.
Ogunji,disclosed that some of the hoodlums who were arrested by the Police have been arraigned and warned that those who defy the government order would face the wrath of the law.
Commissioner for Trade and Investment, Cosmos Ndukwe, in a statement, said: “We have observed with great dismay that despite the lockdown order, some markets in the State have carried on businesses as usual in total disregard to government directives.
“Leadership of markets across the State are by this announcement reminded that the State Committee on enforcement of the lockdown order will move round markets henceforth.
“While the Ministry is committed to joining the fight against this global pandemic, it will hand in appropriate disciplinary measures to leadership of markets that disobey the order on closure of markets.
“For the avoidance of doubt, all markets in the state must be closed during the period of the lockdown and defaulters will only have themselves to blame.
“Please, stay safe and close our markets to prevent the spread of coronavirus.”