by ‘Jola Sotubo
Policemen deployed in Akwa Ibom State to quell a riot are alleged to have shot a 60 year old woman, identified as Comfort John.
The officers were assigned to the Afaha Offot Market in the state during a protest by the market women over the demolition of their stalls.
According to reports, the policemen had stormed the market to disperse the protesters, who were demonstrating against the Uyo Capital City Development Authority, when Mrs. John was shot.
John, who had a stall in the market, was coming back from Itam Market on Friday where she had gone to purchase goods.
One of her daughters, Miss Patricia John, said that as soon as her mother stepped into her shop, the protesting women were seen running in every direction as riot policemen fired gunshots and teargas canisters at them.
She said, “One of the bullets hit my mum on the thigh. The riot policemen, who shot her fled. If not for the Divisional Police Officer, ‘C’ Division, Mr. Mike Esu, who helped me to take my mum to University of Uyo Teaching Hospital, my mum would have died just for nothing.”
The village head of Afaha Offot, Mr. David Etuk, who condemned the attack, said he did not understand the rationale behind the demolition of Afaha Offot Market by UCCDA.
He said the inhabitants of the area had been operating at the market for over 100 years, adding that it was difficult to explain what prompted the UCCDA to embark on the demolition of the market without any prior notice.
He said, “The UCCDA has never come to Afaha Offot Market to mark the place for demolition. There was no previous warning whatsoever. What we noticed on that fateful Friday was the demolition exercise being carried out by UCCDA.
“Our women have been selling in this market for over 100 years. If they feel the place should no longer be used by market women, let them provide an alternative place for them.
“We are going to write a protest letter to the government over the decision of the UCCDA to demolish the only market we have.”
President of the Afaha Offot Market, Mrs. Anna Robert, said the goods the authority destroyed were worth N200m. She added that since that day, the women had been staying at home with no money to feed their families.
She stated that some of the women selling in the markets were widows and that they used the proceeds from sales in the market to fend for their families.
The state Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Etim Dickson, said the police did not shoot anybody.
He said that the story was false and that the police were ready to defend it.
He said, “We were monitoring the demolishing team. After the University of Uyo incident, no policeman has shot anybody. The police did not even go there with baton.
“They were all there in their vehicles. What they did was to throw teargas to disperse the shop owners. The accusation is wrong.”
All attempts to reach the chairman, UCCDA, Mr. Ignatius Edet, proved abortive as he did not respond to his calls or text messages sent to his telephone.
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