Some angry youths on Tuesday attacked a police station and set some cars on fire at the popular Wuse Market in Abuja, after a hawker was shot dead by security operatives.

Witnesses said the hawker, who the police identified as 27-year-old Ibrahim Yahaya, was shot after he was arrested by some “task force officers” and the police.

The hawker was trying to escape from custody when he was shot, shop owners, who said they witnessed the incident, said.

The killing was said to have triggered angry reactions from some youths in the market.

Burnt vehicle

The mob made their way to the police station in the market, destroying windows and setting some cars in the surrounding on fire. About eight cars were burnt down in the incident that went wild at about 3.30 p.m.

The police fired teargas to disperse the mob, according to those who said they witnessed the incident.

About 10 shops also caught fire in the chaos.

A black plume of smoke rising above the market was seen by residents at places away from the scene.

Some shop owners blamed the fire that razed the shops on police teargas.

A shop owner, John Abasi, told PREMIUM TIMES: “Truly it was the teargas that caused the fire. You know when someone is killed, people will react. So people tried to attack the person who shot the guy, but he ran away. So they were going to destroy his things. That is why they burnt the cars there (pointing to the direction of the burnt cars). The police then started shooting the teargas which went into people’s shops and burnt their goods.”

Attacked card

Daily Trust reported that a senior official of the Abuja Markets Management Limited (AMML) inside the market confirmed that the shooting of the hawker provoked the attackers to burn down some shops. AMML office was said to have been affected by the fire. The official told the newspaper that the office and some vehicles in the car park within the market were torched by the youths.

Police confirm killing

The police, on Tuesday, confirmed the killing of the hawker, 27-year-old Yahaya.

However, Police Public Relations Officer, FCT Command, Josephine Adeh, cleared the police of the shooting.

She said the deceased, who died after he was rushed to the hospital, was shot by a correctional service (prison) officer while he was trying to escape from custody.

Her statement read in part: “Preliminary investigation revealed that one Ibrahim Yahaya ‘27 years’ was apprehended by operatives of the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) Task Force and was taken before a mobile court which sits every Tuesday in Wuse Market, and he was convicted.

“Suspect alongside others were being conveyed to the prison, when he reportedly jumped from the vehicle and took to his heels in an attempt to escape. Two armed corrections personnel who were in the vehicle went after him and in the process, shot him. They said Ibrahim Yahaya was immediately rushed to a nearby hospital where doctors on the ground confirmed him dead.”

The police spokesperson said, “The development led some irate mobs who witnessed the situation to set ablaze eight (8) vehicles and ten (10) shops in the environ.”

She added: “The whole fire situation erupted uproar from residents but was brought under control by a combined effort of Federal fire service and other security agencies present.

“While normalcy has since been restored, and investigation still ongoing, the Commissioner of Police FCT, CP Benneth Igweh psc, mni, enjoins residents to peacefully go about their lawful businesses without fear.”

Officials speak

No fewer than 10 shops were razed down by fire in Wuse Market during the incident, according to the Federal Capital Territory Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

FEMA’s Head of Public Affairs, Nkechi Isa, said this in a statement in Abuja.

Mrs Isa, who said that no life was lost, added that the cause of the fire was yet to be ascertained.

She, however, said the fire was brought under control by a combined team of the Federal Fire Service, FCT Fire Service, and Julius Berger Fire Department.

The FEMA spokesperson said the agency received a distress call on the 112 emergency toll-free number at 4.05 p.m. about the fire incident at the market.

She added that the agency, being the lead coordinating body for all emergencies in the FCT, thereafter, activated its stakeholders to ensure maximum response.

Mrs Isa identified the stakeholders as the FCT Fire Service, Federal Fire Service, National Emergency Management Agency, FCT Police Command, and Julius Berger Fire Service.

The acting Director General of FEMA, Mohammed Sabo, appealed to FCT residents to equip their homes and business places with basic firefighting equipment like extinguishers and fire blankets.

Mr Sabo noted that the 10 shops affected by the fire incident did not have a fire extinguisher.

He also noted that access to the place was unhampered allowing the fire trucks to effectively fight the fire.

He advised market management to put a fire tinder in place to prevent loss of properties during fire outbreaks.

Mr Sabo also urged FCT residents to avoid storing petroleum products and other combustible items in their homes.

He called on residents to always use the 112-emergency toll-free number in the event of an emergency.

Earlier, Innocent Amaechina, spokesperson for the Abuja Market Management Ltd (AMML), who confirmed the outbreak of the fire, said that only a portion of the market was affected.

Mr Amaechina refuted the erroneous report in social media that the whole market was engulfed in fire.

The official, who also could not confirm the cause of the fire, said the incident reportedly began between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m.

He said that some shops, including the office of the AMML in the market, were burnt down by the fire.

He added that some vehicles parked at the northern parking lots in the market were equally burnt.

“I have not been able to have access to the market to assess the extent of the damage, but the police and fire service officials have arrived at the scene and taken control of the situation,” he said. (NAN)