Traders in Apo, especially the unfortunate victims of the violence that followed the EndSARS protest on October 10, 2020, continue to count their losses which they put at over N2billion days after the carnage that was visited on their businesses. It was a day that the wind of EndSARS protests that swept across the country in the last two weeks berthed in FCT leaving some indelible marks.
Apo district, famous as a bubbling hub for automobile mechanics, spare parts and car mart, may also be very notorious for trade malpractices, which undoubtedly provided irresistible hunting ground for SARS operatives. But the traders in this ever busy auto-commerce melting point of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) said they were too enamoured with their businesses, and didn’t show any empathy or solidarity with the protesters, to have warranted the unprovoked attack.
Up till now, they have not stopped wondering why fate did not honour their prayers to keep evil far away from them that fateful day. Someone like Emeka Enwereji, a car dealer at the Kabusa junction axis of the Apo, has not recovered from the shock of watching his ‘for sale’ cars being burnt into carcasses by the hoodlums.
Enwereji, a father of six children and in his late 50s, struggled to stifle emotions and hide his tears as he was gesticulating towards the carcasses of his cars still littering the car stand.
He said that out of the 15 cars burnt to ashes by the hoodlums, two were his own, while the rest belonged to his business partners who share the place with him. According to him, the dare-devil hoodlums in a twinkle of an eye, decimated their livelihood approximately in the neighbourhood of N50 million to oblivion. Like any other trader who left home the morning of that day with great expectations of good things, Enwereji was still dazed that in spite of his prayers, there was no premonition for the undesirable happenstance. Although, he said being alive was much to be desired than riches, he was concerned that the incident has brought him to a point where he now lives at the mercy of benefactors. He also noted that the actions of the arsonists had put him under serious economic pressure. Enwereji shared his ugly experiences thus: “We didn’t join the protesters; as a matter of fact I’m too old to leave my six children to join the protesters.
“We were already out for the day’s business when the protesters marched out to Kabusa junction, Apo, around 10am. They actually finished their protest and went away from the junction. “We were however shocked that as at the time that schools closed later in the afternoon, we saw people pursuing school children, when we realised what was going on, we saw the hoodlums coming with tyre, fuel and armed with cutlass and other dangerous weapons. “It was at that point that we ran for our lives, and the hoodlums started setting fire to our cars. “We sell both direct ‘tokunbo ‘ and fairly used cars.
Approximately, the cars that were burnt in my stand here is above N50 million. “One of my greatest tragedy now, is that one of my customers had already deposit the sum of N2 million for one of the Highlander jeep that was burnt. This is a car worth N5.4 million.
“Our source of livelihood has gone, we need more than setting up of a committee as the FCT Minister promised when he came for on the spot assessment of the damage. “We need positive actions that will put us back on our feet economically, as soon as possible. As a father of six children who are still in school, life has not been easy with me. “Apart from the FCT Administration, we are calling on members of National Assembly who represent us from our various states to come to our aid.” The car dealers at Kabusa junction were not the only victims; many other traders also had a sour taste of the undesirable mischief.
The Chairman, Apo Traders Association, Chimezie Ifeh, lamented that six of his members were murdered by the hoodlums who left the protesters to attack the traders. Ifeh who frowned at FCT administration’s delay in constituting a committee for compensation as the promised by the Minister, said what the traders lost should be in the realm of billions. He noted that apart from the cars, houses and shops were burnt by the hoodlums. He called on the government to quickly douse the growing tension arising from the frustration which loss of livelihood has brought upon his members. He also lamented that despite all the measures put in place by security forces, the hoodlums were still attacking and maiming secretly within the area.
He explained: “Generally the traders in Apo, besides losing 6 of our members, lost properties that worth about N2bn. “Our shops, both provisions and building materials were burnt. We haven’t been invited to be part of the committee the FCT Minister promised to set up to compensate us. I am not even sure if such committee has been set up. “We have taken our destiny in our hands, by providing adequate security around our business premises because from what we are hearing on a daily basis, the hoodlums are still attacking both traders and residents secretly within Apo, Waru and other communities around.” Meanwhile, the victims of the violence at Dutse community are also bearing the brunt of the losses. Our correspondent gathered that five lives were reportedly lost to the shootout by police, while one person was reportedly killed by the hoodlums allegedly sponsored by the police. The deaths which infuriated youths, led to destruction of some public structures; a court, police station, police vehicles a Power Holding Corporation of Nigeria’s office including some government buses.