Fire has razed a section of the Swali Market, a major market situated in Yenagoa, the capital of Bayelsa State.
Investigations revealed that the inferno, which broke out in the early hours of Friday completely burnt shops where gas cookers, cloths and other wares, were sold.
Traders and shop owners were reportedly in tears as they struggled to salvage some of their goods at the ill-fated shops.
The traders, who wept over the development, said they lost millions of naira to the fire.
One of the traders, Udubuochi Christine, hinted that the fire started from a nearby bush.
She said: “We suspect that the fire came from the back of the market, over the fence, through the bushy area, people go there to burn things, so it started from the burning bush.
“So we are advising them not to burn anything there again because this is Harmattan season everything is dry and can easily catch fire”.
She, however, said that officials of the state fire service were prevented from getting to the scene of the fire by traders, who accused them of late response.
“The people did not allow the fire service people to get to the scene because they came late and the traders said they were not to be trusted.
“The traders and other people gathered together and worked tirelessly to put out the fire. Many goods were burnt to ashes. And over 300 shops were destroyed. Most traders could not salvage anything”, she said.
She said the fire also destroyed physical cash with millions of naira and called on the government to come to the aide of the traders.
She said: “By the time we bring out the safe where we kept money, we discovered that the money had been burnt. Most traders keep money in their safes for quick and easy transactions.
“We want the government to maintain a fire service in the market. The So government should give us a standby fire service, so when the fire starts they will quench it instantly, not to call them on the phone”.
Another trader, Loveth Mark, lamented that the fire service personnel arrived the scene of the incident late.
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“Before the fire service came, we had put out the fire. Most of the things were destroyed. We could not salvage anything reasonable”, she said.
Troops Rescue 21 Persons From Militia
Operation Whirl Stroke (OPWS), the military operation in Benue, Nasarawa and Taraba states, rescued 21 persons from the hands of their abductors, who were identified as a local militia group.
The Public Relations Officer (PRO), OPWS, Flight Lieutenant Audu Katty, disclosed this in a statement in Makurdi, the operational headquarters of OPWS on Thursday.
Katty explained that 20 of the victims who were commuters were rescued by OPWS troops along Kente-Chinkai road in Wukari Local Government Area (LGA) of Taraba State on Tuesday.
He further explained that a local with a machete wound was also rescued in the course of pursuing the militia that had earlier abducted the commuters.
The OPWS spokesman said the local, who was badly wounded, was taken to the primary healthcare centre in Kente for treatment.
According to Katty: “On 6th December 2022, the gallant troops of Op Whirl Stroke while responding to distress calls on the activities of a local militia along Kente-Chinkai Road in Wukari LGA of Taraba State mobilised and moved to the scene.
“The local militia in their numbers, dressed in full military attires on sighting advancing troops abandoned their hostages and fled into the bush.
According to him, the troops rescued all the hostages, the 20 commuters, from their abductors.
“Troops further exploited deep into the bush and rescued an unidentified local with machete injury on his head. The rescued victim has since been taken to Kente Primary Health Care for treatment.”
He stated that the troops thereafter launched a manhunt for the militia and trailed them to their hideout.
Said he: “Contact was made with them. Troops responded and overpowered them with superior firepower making the militia flee in disarray with possible gunshot wounds.”
Katty also stressed that Operation Whirl Stroke will continue “to safeguard the lives of innocent citizens across the area of its responsibility” while he solicited the “cooperation of the locals to continue giving timely information on the activities of criminals.”
Oil Thieves Arrsted, 43 Ammunition Recovered In Rivers
The Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps said its operatives recovered 43 ammunition during a gun battle with a kidnap syndicate operating at Okuru-Ama, waterside, near Port Harcourt.
The NSCDC Commandant, Rivers State Command, Michael Ogar, disclosed this while briefing newsmen in Port Harcourt, the state capital on Wednesday.
Ogar said the command’s Anti-vandal squad engaged the suspected kidnappers for about 25 minutes, saying the hoodlums fled on noticing the superior firing power of the operatives.
“Following a sustained Intelligence on the activities of a kidnap syndicate hideout discovered at an uncompleted building located in Okuru-Ama waterside our men swung into action and engaged the suspects in a duel gun battle for 25 minutes.
“They however escaped through the waterways when they discovered our men almost overpowered them.
“However, we were able to recover the following items at the scene of the occurrence: six AK-47 rifles magazines, three Tavor gun magazines, 43 Tavor K2 Ammunitions, 1 Breech block, charms with animal horns.
“Also, a wristwatch and an empty bag. Our men will continue to patrol the area as we enjoined the public not to relent in giving the command credible information that would lead to their arrests.
“You can rest assured that the informant’s identity would be jealousy protected”.
In another development the following, the state NSCDC commandant said 24 suspects for their alleged involvement in oil theft.
Ogar said the suspects attempted to vandalize pipelines belonging to the Nigerian Agip Oil Company, as well as for conspiracy, advance fee fraud, illegal possession of ammunition, obtaining by false pretence and other criminal offences.
He added, “The NSCDC Rivers State Command operatives in joint operations with the Military, Nigerian Police and the DSS attached to Abilli Integrated Service Limited arrested about 19 suspects while attempting to vandalize the Nigerian Agip Oil Company Pipelines.
“They were apprehended along a Toyota Sequoia Jeep SR 5 with Registration number Abuja RSH 645 KZ in a conveyance of illegally refined Automotive Gas Oil (AGO), 1 hard sawblade, a Toyota Camry with number plate Lagos ET 441 LSR, a Toyota Sequoia V8 with registration number Lagos BDG 590 CX laden with illegally refined AGO, a Honda Accord- Kaduna AH 978 MKK with 100 litres of illegally refined AGO concealed in cellophane bags, a Pump action and 2 Cartridges.
“While on routine patrol along the waterways the Command Anti-vandal Marine Team Impounded a wooden boat laden with unquantified litres of AGO, the suspects actually abandoned it and dived into the water while being chased by our men. Notably.
“Four other suspects were arrested for Sales of Pre-registered SIM Cards by our operatives in conjunction with the Nigerian Communication Commission, one Mr Akpan Daniel was also arrested for advanced free fraud and obtaining by false pretence to the tune of N3m which he claimed to have invested in a forex trading on behalf of the Complainant.”
Ogar assured that the corps will continue to fight against crimes and criminalities in the State, saying all the suspects would definitely have their time in court.
He further said the command has intensified the fight against oil theft and illegal oil bunkering activities to save the nation’s economy from saboteurs.
He, therefore, solicited the support and cooperation of the public through useful information to activate actionable intelligence that would help forestall criminal acts, “So that the State can be a safe haven for all dwellers.”
Youths Protest INEC’s Alleged Refusal To Conduct Bye-election In Akwa Ibom
Youths of Oron Union in Oron Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State had stormed the premises of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, along Udom Udoma Avenue Uyo in protest of what they described as ‘delay or tactical refusal’ by the commission to conduct a bye-election to fill the vacant office of the federal constituency.
The position was left vacant after the demise of Nse Ekpenyong
a former House of Representatives Member for the Oron Federal Constituency who died on April 23, eight months ago and his seat declared vacant on June 30 by the Speaker during his internment.
The youths of the area in a protest on Wednesday lamented that the absence of representation had deprived them of many benefits and rights from the National Assembly accusing the electoral umpire of nonchalance in conducting a bye-election in the area.
Displaying placards with various inscriptions such as “INEC sabotaging our constitutional benefits for 8 months of no representation, ‘Oron Federal Constituency deserves a Representative from National Assembly in Abuja, ‘We need a voice at the National Assembly,” among others, the youths urged the INEC National Chairman, Prof Yakubu Mahmood to ensure that the bye-election is conducted immediately in the federal Constituency.
The youths described the federal constituency as the largest in Nigeria with the highest oil producing communities in the Niger Delta.
Speaking on behalf of the protesters, the International president of the group, Mr John Bassey flanked by the secretary, Maxi Mkpo recalled that INEC sometime in January conducted bye-elections for six constituencies in four states of the federation and wondered why Akwa Ibom would be different.
He enumerated the constituencies and states the bye-elections were conducted to include: Akure North/Akure South Federal Constituency, Ondo State; Jos North/Bassa Federal Constituency, Plateau State; Pankshin South State Constituency, Plateau State; Ogoja/Yala Federal Constituency, Cross River State; Akpabuyo State Constituency, Cross River State; Ngor-Okpala State Constituency, Imo State.
The statement read in parts, “Today, we are gathered here to send a very strong signal to the Chairman of National Electoral Commission INEC Prof, Mahmood Yakubu over this perceived cruel disenfranchisement and broad daylight robbery of our constitutionally and democratically given right to representation at the green Chambers of the National Assembly, Abuja.
“INEC has technically avoided any process that could be initiated for the conduct of a bye-election in our federal constituency. As a people, we are deliberately being denied our right to representation as obtained in the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria.
”It is about eight (8) good months since the unfortunate departure of our Late MP in April 23rd, this year and the subsequent declaration of the seat vacant by the speaker followed by his internment on 30th June 2022. Hence, we are bitterly worried over what could be the justification for INEC not to facilitate the process of conducting a bye-election to fill the vacant seat.
“Recall, an indigene of Mbo LGA, Mr. Emmanuel Inyang, on October 12th 2022 embarked on a one-man protest to the Uyo office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) over what he described as ‘unnecessary delay’ by the Commission to fill in replacement, for vacant seats in the National Assembly. This press conference is to re-emphasize and state our points of anger categorically and unequivocally to INEC about the looming dangers of its seeming refusal to conduct the bye-election and the many disadvantages of such an undemocratic delay to the Oro people.
“Our point is very clear and straightforward, we are calling on INEC to fast-track the processes of conducting a bye-election for this mega and oil-rich constituency to avert any future breakdown of law and order within the already volatile elections season and Niger Delta region.”
He also called on members of the parliament representing other federal constituencies within the state to join hands in solidarity in condemning such acts during sessions.
He added that further delay by the commission to accede to their request before the end of December 2022 will leave them with no option but to occupy the state headquarters of INEC from the first of January 2023 until the needful is done.
However, the Head of Operations of INEC in Akwa Ibom, Vincent Ogene addressing the youths assured them that the issue will be addressed.
Ogene commended the youths for their orderly and peaceful conduct nothing that the commission at the national level will give a directive on what is to be done.
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