Traders and shop owners at the popular Computer Village in Ogunabali, Port Harcourt City Local Government Area of Rivers State, and the state police command have disagreed on the attacks by cultists on the traders.
The computer village was attacked again on Wednesday by hoodlums, whom the police described as cultists.
They were said to have shot indiscriminately and looted laptops, phones, and other goods from the shops.
While the traders said the attack was one too many and that the police and other security agencies were not doing anything to secure their businesses, the command insisted that its operatives always responded to distress calls.
Prior to Wednesday’s attack, the suspected cultists had vowed to return to the computer village over the refusal of the traders to pay N500,000 monthly ‘marching ground’ levy.
The traders expressed worry that the hoodlums made good their threat and returned on Wednesday evening, looted goods worth over N5m, and destroyed valuables, noting that the police and other security agencies, as well as the state government, had failed to protect them.
Following the panic created by the hoodlums’ gunshots, many customers and motorists around the area leading to the Rebisi flyover ran helter-skelter.
One of the traders said, “We were surprised when they came back, blocking the road, stealing laptops and harassing people on the street and asking all the shops to close down.
“They were taking phones from Aguma to the entire environment around Ogunabali here. We have been reporting to the police and security agencies and nothing has been done.”
Another trader added that “They were shooting, entering peoples’ shops and offices and carrying away laptops and phones. I have not felt the presence of the police since the attack started on Tuesday. That is even what is scaring us the more. These guys came and said we should be giving them N500,000 a month. Where will that money come from?
“I know of one of my colleagues, whose shop was burgled on Wednesday. He lost goods worth over N3m. People were running out of cars; some ladies even got injured, because of the way these guys were operating.”
One of the victims stated, “The decision we have taken is that the shops will be locked up and all the roads around Ogunabali here will be shut down until the government comes to address the situation.
“We have decided not to open the business environment. The local government chairman is from this community. We have not heard from him and we have not heard from the police and the government.”
“Let our governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, help us and find out what we have done wrong. The community people are not saying anything. None of them has approached us to ask what the problem is. They are just quiet and allow us to suffer, while we pay rent to them,” an angry trader said.
But reacting to the latest attack, the spokesman for the state police command, Nnamdi Omoni, blamed the traders for not reporting the incident on time, adding that it was wrong for them to give money to hoodlums.
He also disclosed that as part of measures to end incessant attacks by cultists, the Commissioner of Police, Friday Eboka, had summoned the leaders of the market to a meeting.
He added, “On that matter, it takes two to tango. The people (traders) themselves didn’t show good faith. What I mean by that is if there was a threat, they should have reported that at the earliest opportunity, which was not done.
“Even the day the cultists went there to attack them, they invited the police and we were there. By the time we got there, the hoodlums had all disappeared into thin air.
“When they alerted us of the second attack, we immediately moved to the scene. But again, by the time we got there, they had disappeared.
“We had it on good authority that the traders were making effort to contribute money to give to the hoodlums, which shouldn’t be so in the first instance.
“Again, we have invited the leaders of the Computer Village. The CP, as we speak, is meeting with them. At the end of the meeting, we will harmonize. There is no room for criminality in Rivers State. If you must achieve your aim, it must be a lawful purpose and nothing illegal.
“If it is a lawful purpose, we will help you achieve it. So, to that extent, after our meeting with the CP, we will come up with our own plan. And I can assure you that we will stem the tide of incessant attacks by criminals.” (Punch)