Enugu market sit-at-home crisis: My ordeal by detained CSO

My name is Ezebinagu Kasie Justus. I’m a native of Ogor Affa in Udi Local Government Area of Enugu State. I’m a trader at Ogbete Main Market Enugu. I trade on stockfish. I’m also the current Chief Security Officer (CSO) of Ogbete market.

I want to give a proper account of what sparked the violent protest that has put Ogbete market in panic since Wednesday morning of the 26th of July, 2023.

On the 17th July, 2023, His Excellency, Dr Peter Ndubisi Mbah, the Executive Governor of Enugu State visited the markets in the state including Ogbete for sensitization on the importance of coming to the market on Mondays. The governor begged the traders to come out enmass on the next Monday. The governor also promised to provide adequate security, which he did.

On the 24th of July, 2023, the SSG accompanied by the Enugu Capital Territory Development Authority (ECTDA) came to the market to enforce the sealing of the defaulters’ shops and they sealed 57 shops on that day.

As the sealing was going on, traders started calling some of their colleagues who were not around and so many traders of Ogbete came out and opened their shops including some that were sealed.

I was in my shop throughout that Monday; I opened my three shops so that traders near me will have the confidence to open their own shops, and about 50 shops were opened in my zone. That was what my governor wanted to achieve.

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After closing my shop at about 5pm, I went to our office, Ogbete Main Market Traders Association (OMMTA), and met my boys to know how the whole process went. They told me everything and we patrolled the market and found out that some of the seals have been removed.

On the 24th of July, Tuesday, the OMMTA Chairman called me and told me not to allow anyone to go into the shops that were sealed and I told him that the seals had been removed and it will be difficult for us to know the actual shops that were sealed. So, he said okay; that he knew that the seals were removed. I told him that for the banks, that it was only Fidelity Bank that had a seal.

At about 3pm on same Tuesday, the local government chairman of Enugu North called me and asked me to go and eject the people that opened and occupied the shops that were sealed by the governor. But I advised him that it will not be good; that it will trigger problem in the market. He then asked me to go and meet with the OMMTA Chairman. I went to our office and met the chairman on the matter. He repeated what the Local Government Chairman said and I also advised him that it will not be a good idea. He now brought out two pieces of papers and handed to me and said that those shop numbers are the defaulters. The shops were 57 in number. He gave me N15,000 through our cleaner in the office.

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I gave one of my boys the money to go and buy padlocks, he bought 5 dozen of padlocks. The chairman asked me to lock the whole shops with the inscription: “Locked and sealed by Enugu State Government by OMMTA Chairman,” he gave me.

We locked the shops and told him that they had been locked.

In the morning of Wednesday, I called my chairman to remind him of those their shops were locked yesterday (Tuesday) and he told me to tell them to wait till 10am and I told him that he should make it earlier.

I arrived at the market around 7:00am that Wednesday. At about 8:00am, my security boys who were in the field told me that some people that have shops at that place were gathering, I quickly called my chairman to inform him and he said he was coming. I called the DSS officer in charge of Enugu North and also called the DPO CPS.

The gathering was increasing and I called my chairman back to inform him again and he said he was close. When he came to the office, he asked me to give him the list of the defaulters and I gave it to him and he told me to follow him down to the market and he started ringing bell to gather the traders to address them. After addressing the first group, we went down again but the people were not listening and I advised him that we move to the office, by then the police have arrived and the protesters were peaceful until the armoured tank came and shot someone.

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This is my story on what happened at Ogbete (market).

Since that Wednesday, I have been in the police custody till date without having any knowledge of why they want to tag me enemy of the state.

Ezebinagu, the Ogbete market CSO and three others were eventually secretly arraigned in a Magistrate court and remanded in the correctional centre.

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