Commercial activities were at a standstill in Abuja, the nation’s capital wednesday, after taxi drivers protested the rumoured killing of a driver allegedly by a soldier attached to FCTA Task Team, at the Wuse Market.
The protest started in the early hours of the day before it spread to other parts of the city.
The rioters blocked the Herbert Macauley Road that links the market to high-end Garki district.
The lockdown left many motorists and commuters stranded as movement to many parts of the city became restricted.
The market, which also two months ago, witnessed a violent clash between traders and a civil society group led by show business mogul, Charly ‘Boy’ Oputa, over the absence of President Muhammadu Buhari from the country for a medical holiday, was shut down by armed police officers in a bid to thwart the situation from degenerating.
They also removed the various barricades the protesters put on the road from Wuse market, through Sky Memorial all the way to Berger Bus stop.
Eyewitness accounts attributed the protest to the shooting of a painted taxi driver at the market in the morning by a soldier attached to the task force.
One of the taxi drivers, Mr John Galadima said the killing of one of their members triggered the protest. Galadima said the driver was shot because he refused to part with money demanded from him by the soldier.
“The task force is fond of terrorising and extorting money from us. They harass us on a daily basis and even detain some of us who don’t compromise,” Galadima said.
In its reaction, FCTA Task Team in a statement denied that there was a casualty in the efforts of an FCTA Task Team to restore sanity on Abuja roads and environs wednesday.
The team explained that “two unauthorized vehicles were arrested during the routine operations of the Ministerial Joint Task Team on the Enforcement of the Ban and the Restriction of Unpainted Taxis, Unauthorized Vehicles and another sundry public nuisance in the FCT.
“As a result, it was reported that some touts attacked members of the task team and were arrested. The arrested vehicles and persons are with the police currently undergoing further investigation. Calm has returned to the Wuse Market after the minor incident.
“No doubt the rumour was spread by persons who thrive in illegalities to blackmail the task team. First, they said someone was shot and he died. When that could not stick, they brought out another blackmail chip of extortion,” it explained.
However, by the close of the day’s business, FCT Police Command spokesman, DSP Anjuguri J. Manzah issued a statement assuring members of the Public “that normalcy has been restored at Wuse and its environs following a misunderstanding that broke out between operatives of the Directorate of Road Transport Services (VIO) Taskforce and cab operators close to Wuse market.”
He said “while the Command reiterates its commitment to protect lives and property in the Federal Capital Territory, members of the public are advised to always follow the right channel in expressing their grievances instead of resorting to self-help and causing damage to property.
“Contrary to speculations making the rounds, members of the public should note that no life was lost nor was anybody injured from the fracas and the situation has been brought under control. It is also pertinent to state that some hoodlums who were trying to take advantage of the false rumour to cause problems in FCT have been arrested and an investigation is in progress.
“Meanwhile, the Command enjoins residents to go about their lawful businesses as adequate security measures have been deployed by the Command to protect lives and property in the territory,” he said.