Although ethnic skirmishes are not alien to the country, the recent Shasha, Ibadan, Oyo State community clash between the Yoruba and Hausa people has been described as one too many. In this report ADEBAYO WAHEED takes a look at the situation and measures being taken to restore peace to the community
When a small altercation ensued between a Yoruba cobbler and a Hausa cart pusher in Shasha market, Ibadan, Oyo State, little did anybody know that it would be the genesis of a conflagration they would consume human lives and properties and eventually pit their ethnic groups against each other.
What started as a mere argument snowballed into a full-blown crisis in the Shasha community of Akinyele local government area of the state snapping the fragile peace that hitherto existed there. Akinyele is one of the 11 local governments that make up Ibadan
Anarchy was let loose, hoodlums took advantage of the death of a cobbler to kill, burn shops and houses.
As the chickens came roosting, traders, shop owners, landlords and other persons with property in and around Shasha market in Ibadan have continued to count their losses.
LEADERSHIP Weekend investigation revealed that properties among which were shops, houses and cars worth billions of naira were destroyed between Friday and Sunday in the market.
About five lives were also reportedly lost in the clash that engulfed the market.
In the aftermath of the crisis, the market has become a ghost of itself.
Witnesses said the clash started as a result of the death of Mr. Sakirudeen Adeola, a cobbler. Adeola, a Yoruba man was hit by an object suspected to be a charm by a yet to be identified cart pusher who is an Hausa man.
The death of Adeola which was announced at the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan on Friday, prompted some of the Yoruba traders to question the death of their kinsman, which later resulted in a free for all between the two ethnic groups.
As a result, no fewer than 15 houses and 30 shops were burnt by suspected hoodlums or miscreants.
According to traders in the market, the properties were destroyed by jobless youths from both Yoruba and Hausa ethnic groups.
It was gathered that both ethnic groups also recorded casualties as a result of the clash.
Sources from both sides, (Yoruba and Hausa) disclosed that at least five people died between Friday and Sunday as a result of the clash, though the state Police Command only confirmed the death of Mr. Adeola.
The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, CSP Olugbenga Fadeyi had said that the clash was between two miscreants.
The burning and killing in the market, according to the two sides were perpetrated by some miscreants or hoodlums within the two ethnic groups, who seized the opportunity of the clash to foment trouble.
Fadeyi, however, was silent on the number of casualties and property that were destroyed.
Though the Oyo State government on Saturday morning ordered an indefinite closure of the market and imposed a curfew, burning of houses and shops continued till Saturday night.
The state governor had imposed the curfew following the crisis in the market with a view to forestall breakdown of law and order in the area.
He had warned residents of the affected areas to go about their legitimate businesses peacefully.
A Yoruba trader, identified as Olusegun Adenle, said his shop was burnt completely. “Our shops have been burnt. We are still counting our losses. We need help.”
Also, an Hausa man, identified as Hassan who said he had left the market to seek refuge in another part of the town said that Hausa traders were also victims of the crisis.
“Yes. Our shops were also burnt. I am going to Sabo now. You know that as a result of the crisis.”
Obviously not amused by the development, the Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Saliu Akanmu Adetunji, has warned against further destruction of property and killings in the market.
The monarch gave the warning when he met some stakeholders over the clash that erupted in the market.
Oba Adetunji, while urging all the concerned persons to embrace peace, urged all warring factions to sheathe their swords.
“Many of our compatriots have been living with each other for a long time. We grow up and attend schools together.
“People from diverse ethnic groups do intermarry and give birth to lovely children.
“Immediately the report of the crisis got to us in the palace yesterday, the governor of Oyo State, Seyi Makinde was the first person I called and we had his promise that appropriate action would be taken as sinners would not go unpunished.”
Speaking on the incident, the traditional ruler of Shasha community, Akinade Ajani, fingered eight ‘mischief makers’ who must leave the community in an effort to restore peace.
He said he had told the governor to root out the eight mischief-makers who were bent on disrupting the now-returning tranquillity in the area.
“There can be smooth co-existence once again between the Yoruba and Hausa communities in Shasha. There are just about eight persons causing the commotion. Once the eight persons leave this place, other residents will live harmoniously.”
Ajani who didn’t disclose the names of the fingered persons, insisted that “those causing commotion in Shasha must leave the community, whether Hausa or Yoruba indigenes.
“These eight people pursue their selfish interests. I told the governors all these when they visited today and they assured me that they would work on it,” he added.
Following the clash, the Oyo State House of Assembly has urged the state government to consider the possibility of relocating the market to a new and bigger site.
The House made the suggestion while deliberating on the urgent need for the state government to intervene in the recurring clashes between Yoruba and Hausa traders at Shasha Market, Ibadan.
Hon Olatunde Kehinde (Akinyele 2) who brought the matter before the House recalled with bitterness how lives were lost and properties destroyed during the clash, and said it was disappointing that the security operatives were slow in responding to the crisis.
The Lawmakers in their resolutions noted that the present place where the market is located can no longer accommodate the number of traders and the volume of goods in the market; hence the government can move the market to a new area.
They also urged the state government to set up a panel of enquiry to ascertain the cause(s) of the clash with a view to prosecuting those responsible.
The assembly further called for a security summit in all constituencies across the state to enable stakeholders to appraise and address the present situation and suggest ways of averting future security crises.
The Nigerian Police and other security agencies were equally asked to be more proactive in responding to conflict situations to prevent such from degenerating into full blow crises.
The Speaker of Oyo State House of Assembly, Hon Adebo Ogundoyin, said it was unfortunate that the crisis was not well managed by the Hausa and Yoruba indigenes at the market.
Ogundoyin said the rising spate of insecurity across the state demands that the various security agencies rise up to the challenge.
“They need to put their professional training to bear in the discharge of their duties. We need our security agents to react on time to emergency situations whenever they are called upon.
“The clash between traders of Yoruba and Hausa extractions should not have been allowed to snowball into a situation where lives and properties would be lost. Our police should collaborate more with various security agencies to enable them arrest criminals who are bent on tormenting trouble amongst us”, Ogundoyin noted.
Meanwhile, prices of foodstuff have increased at Owode, Oja’ba and Bodija and Shasha market as a result of the last week’s ethnic violence.
Abdulwasiu who manages his mother’s canteen was seated on a long wooden bench in front of the wooden shop that housed the canteen when LEADERSHIP approached him.
According to him, “pepper has never been this expensive at this time of the year in the last five years,” he said as he folded his arms.
While the market remained shut, the economic effect of this clash on residents of Ibadan had begun to set in as the prices of food items majorly supplied at Sasa market have begun to skyrocket.
Abdulwasiu, who said the cost of pepper and other food items like onions had increased by about 50 per cent in the last three days, noted that customers bear a significant part of the burden because they get smaller food at a slightly higher price.
The wreckages of shops and goods burnt down during the clash were like fresh wounds — they were still hot, while rotten tomatoes and their woven baskets were the only reminder of what the market looks like.
However, succour has come to the traders, as the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), has pledged to help rebuild the Shasha Market, Ibadan, which was burnt down in the wake of the crisis that engulfed the market last week.
A delegation of the NGF led by the governor of Kebbi State, Senator Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, which visited Ibadan, delivered the promise after a tour of the trouble spot.
Bagudu, who was joined by his colleagues from Zamfara, Kano, and Niger states, said that the city of Ibadan was calm, contrary to the pictures being circulated on social media.
He commended the Oyo State governor, ‘Seyi Makinde for what he has done so far in restoring peace and normalcy to the community, adding that the streets of Ibadan are calm and peaceful.
Bagudu said: “We, the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, are going to support. As a matter of fact, we have given a token to those who are already displaced, and we will meet at a wider table tomorrow and can assure that more support will be mobilised.”
Makinde, who led governors Atiku Bagudu, Kebbi; Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, Kano; Bello Muhammad Matawalle, Zamfara; and Abubakar Sanni Bello, Niger, to Shasha community, said that his government would continue to look for avenues to restore peaceful co-existence.
He declared that the unity of Nigeria and the need to restore peace were weightier than political divides, adding that his administration was ready to ensure peaceful co-existence among the residents of Shasha community in Akinyele Local Government Area of the state.
While speaking at the palaces of Sarkin Shasha and Baale, the governor called for calm and unity among the Hausas and Yorubas living in the community, urging everyone to join hands with the administration.
Makinde applauded the governors for coming together in one accord to find a way to restore peace to Oyo State and to the country.
He said: “As a government, we will continue to look for an avenue to restore a peaceful co-existence for all of us. Please, I want you to join hands with us and we also acknowledge that sometimes, we process information and we may not get to the roots of the issue. If you see something, say something to us and we will address the challenges frontally.”
The governor explained that his relationship with the Arewa community through the Seriki dated back years before he became governor of the state, adding that his message to all sides is to give peace a chance.
The governor said: “Even before I became the governor, I have always had solid interaction with the Arewa community through Baba. I still remember that in 2013, I came here, and Baba was trying to make me feel comfortable.
“So, we have been together for long. I feel the pain of everybody involved here because properties were lost, and we can replace properties. It may be painful, but when the fire started and I was contacted. I said they should send a fire truck here and the fire truck was vandalised, damaged.
“So, I told the people that it is annoying that we have to use money that could have been used for something else to replace the fire trucks and to rebuild all of these places. But those are minor cases; when a life is lost, we can’t replace it. We cannot make life. So, my message is that of peace.
“I want to urge the promoters of fake and divisive news to please desist. Let us have the chance to give our people the opportunity to earn their decent living.”
Speaking on the relocation of some traders to Iroko, the governor declared that he had also closed the said market adding that every stakeholder in the markets must sign an undertaking to maintain peace before he would agree to reopen the market.
While speaking on behalf of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum shortly after the inspection, Kebbi State governor, Atiku Bagadu, explained that the motive of the governors’ visit was to commiserate with the government and people of the state on the unfortunate incident that led to the destruction of properties in the state.
He called on Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo, and other tribes living in fear to send their community leaders to the Government House, Ibadan, so that the government could address their fears.
Atiku Bagudu said: “For the generality of all Nigerians, it is important to know that the streets of Ibadan are calm. People are not chasing one another. People are supporting one another to resume normalcy.
“To those outside Ibadan, particularly the northern states, we want to extend that the regrettable incident has happened, but it is not a tribal but a regrettable conflict that different communities in Oyo State are holding themselves to sort out.”
The Kebbi governor added the Nigerian Governor’s Forum would assist the state government in rebuilding the market and providing palliative for the victims, saying:
“We were well received by our host, Governor Makinde, who briefed us about what happened. And, today, he has taken us to Shasha market. On our way, we had a stop-over at Bodija market and we are pleased that we saw Nigerians of different tribes at the market conducting activities, which is evidence of return of normalcy.
“In fact, we saw some onion sellers from different states, including Kebbi, Zamfara, and Sokoto and other states.
“We went to Shasha market and saw the destruction but more than the destruction was a regrettable loss of lives that was caused by a condemnable spontaneous response to emotions, because both the Hausa and Yoruba community were unanimous that two issues led to this situation.
“One, there had been contention over the leadership of the Sasa market but even though the Seriki Sasa and Baale of Sasa are in agreement about leadership, other interested groups were not so in agreement. So, there was this undercurrent playing out.
“On the other hand, there was somebody pushing a wheelbarrow with tomatoes and it fell in front of a shop. Ordinarily, one would have thought such is normal in a market but since emotions are pent up, unfortunately, we had such a situation. We sympathise with all those who lost their lives and property.
“We saw the damage and we appreciate what the governor has done so far. We have seen what the security agencies have also done, and we are glad that things are returning to normalcy.
“The Seriki Shasha and Baale have confirmed that everyone is ready to stay and conduct their lawful activities and the governor has assured that he will continue to ensure that all communities continue to live without fear.”