Traders and street hawkers in Ado Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital, on Wednesday resisted attempts by officials of the Ministry of Works to restrain them from displaying their wares along the roads.
Having prepared well to make huge gains in the ongoing yuletide, the traders considered the action of the task force a “disturbance,” and an attempt to deny them of their season’s profit.
They also engaged in street protests, bonfires, and even vandalizing the office of the Commissioner for Works, Funmi Ogun.
PREMIUM TIMES gathered that trouble began when early on Wednesday morning, officials of the ministry, popularly called “Dagrin,” prevented street trading in the city by arresting and seizing wares of many who had displayed them on the streets.
The move angered the traders who reacted by vandalizing properties in sight, shattering windows and doors of government offices.
Ms. Ogun was said to have narrowly escaped the wrath of the protesters, who were obviously looking out for her.
“The task force should realize that this is festive period, Christmas is just four days while new year is less than two weeks,” one of the protesters who would not want his name mentioned, explained while speaking to journalists.
“And it is at this time that selling, especially on the streets booms. So, they ought to allow us to do our business now.
“Many of us have market stalls in the demolished markets and are awaiting spaces in the new Oja-Oba market under construction.
“We cannot afford to go and get shops now as that would be too expensive. So they should pardon us for this time. At least, we have obeyed them all along before now.
Anti-riot policemen were, however, dispatched to the scene of protest to ensure calm. They fired tear gas to disperse the protesters.
Three of the aggrieved traders were also arrested by the police.
The Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, also went to the scene to see things for himself.
He appealed to the protesters to stay calm as the government would look into the cause of the problem.
The Police Public Relations Officer, Ekiti State Command, Alberto Adeyemi, told PREMIUM TIMES that the suspects were not arrested for protesting, but for vandalizing government property.
“They vandalised government properties and mashed government vehicles,” he said.
“Even the police van that was sent to curtail their activities was also destroyed, so we are investigating the matter.”
He however said the situation had been brought under control and residents were freely going about their businesses.