No fewer than 50 shops and two residential buildings, located within the Oja Oba market in Ado Ekiti, Ekiti State, were razed as the crisis between drivers and Hausa traders escalated on Friday. The arson took place in the early hours of Friday despite the dusk to dawn curfew imposed by Governor Ayodele Fayose on Thursday. The market, situated directly opposite the king’s palace, and populated by people of different ethnic groups, majorly the Yorubas, was razed at about 2am on Friday. As of press time, the Police had yet to announce any arrest made in connection with the arson. Traders cried uncontrollably on Friday lamenting the loss of goods worth several millions of Naira.
Security agencies had taken over the scene on Wednesday as the fight was getting out of hand. Residents and workers living along Odo Ado, Ajilosun-Ikere road, woke up to see thick fumes of flames coming from the market. Most schools in the city shut their gate to pupils while those that opened before getting to know the situation in town had to hurriedly send pupils back home. The panic message also got to banks and other commercial offices who also shut their door to customers. Men of the state fire service had difficulty curtailing the inferno. All major streets in the capital city were deserted as the news spread. Trucks-load of mobile and regular policemen as well as soldiers were immediately deployed on the orders of the state government to prevent escalation of the crisis and prevent massive looting.
The state governor, Mr. Ayo Fayose, who personally led security team that included the newly posted Commissioner of Police, Mr. Etop James, to the scene, expressed worry at the turn of events. Fayose ordered that four luxurious buses belonging to government be immediately mobilised to evacuate all Hausa residents (including women and children) in the city to a neutral ground called ‘shasha’ situated along Ado-Ekiti-Ikere, Ekiti road. Many of the Hausas that had been moved to the Mobile Police unit near the old Governor’s office were still being evacuated as of press time. The governor, who, for more than three hours, stood and monitored the evacuation, said the Hausa community would be at the new place for the time being, and would be heavily guarded by both soldiers and mobile policemen.
The new CP told journalists in a separate interview that the police were on top of the situation, saying his men had been working tirelessly since the incident happened. He said he was challenged by the character of the state governor who abandoned the luxury of the government house to team up with the police in checking the crisis from getting out of hands when called about 1am. The police boss warned trouble makers to steer clear of the state while law abiding residents should conduct their daily businesses without any fear. The crisis started on Tuesday night when a bag belonging to the wife of a Chieftain of transport workers was snatched by unknown persons along the ever busy Ijigbo old garage area of the city. It was learnt that the victim was allegedly raped by the assailants after dispossessing her of her belongings, a development that irked the drivers. An eyewitness said the victim’s husband reported the matter to his members after efforts to know the identities of the perpetrators proved futile.