No fewer than four persons were feared dead, weekend, in Aba, Abia State, when street traders at New Market clashed with officials of Aba Urban Renewal Committee over the order to relocate to Good Morning Market.
A Toyota Camry, a tricycle and two motorcycles were also burnt in the fracas.
Aba Urban Renewal Committee, headed by the Special Adviser to the Governor, Engr. Solomon Ogunji, was set up by Abia State government to demolish structures built on roads, drainage channels and pedestrian walk ways in the city.
The committee stormed the area spanning Cameroon, Clifford, School and Ehi roads, popularly called Highlife, to enforce the ban on street trading in the area, which also hosts Enyimba International Stadium, but were resisted by the street traders.
Business operators and shop owners were forced to close shop, even as youths mounted road blocks at Azikiwe by Adazi Junction, leading to the New Market.
Eyewitnesses told Vanguard that some youths from both sides wielded machetes and other dangerous weapons.
About 10 traders, who sustained severe injuries, are now receiving medical attention at various hospitals in the city.
Soldiers were also seen patrolling the areas, while several policemen patrolled round the city centre.
Govt hired thugs— TRADERS
Some of the traders, who spoke to journalists, accused the committee of engaging thugs.
One of the traders, Ifeanyi Nwosu, said: “It started last Wednesday. The Aba Urban Renewal people arrived with some boys and started pouring fuel on our goods.
“That did not go down well with us. But as good citizens of the state, we kept quiet and tried to find out what were the reasons for the actions.
“They asked us to go over to the Good Morning Market and we decided to consult our market leaders. The next day, they came again and started destroying things again. This was after some people had collected N120 daily ticket.
“We do not know what happened between the team and a trader which resulted in a fight and in the process, the tricycle and Toyota Camry they came in were set ablaze.”
The traders also denied that they were given enough notice before the committee stormed the area to enforce the order and appealed to Governor Okezie Ikpeazu to call members of the committee to order.
When contacted on telephone, Special Adviser to the governor on Aba Urban Renewal, Engr. Solomon Ogunji, said his agency went to the area to ensure that the traders complied with the directive to relocate to Good Morning Market, before his line suddenly went dead.
Repeated efforts to contact him proved abortive.
However, spokesman of Abia State Police Command, DSP Ezekiel Onyeke, said that the police stepped in to maintain law and order, stressing that investigations were ongoing.