Some sections of the Umuahia Timber Market at Ahiaeke Ndume in Umuahia North Local Government Area of Abia State, were burnt yesterday, following a clash between traders and operatives of the state’s Vigilante Service at the market.
Seven persons reportedly sustained injuries as a result of the clash and were rushed to the Federal Medical Centre, Umuahia for treatment.
The Guardian learnt that the clash was sequel to a misunderstanding between Abia State Board of Internal Revenue (Agency) and the traders over annual payment of N18,000 tax by each trader.
Chairman of the Market, Comrade Ndubuisi Nwogu, said the traders and the agency had agreed on the payment of N18, 000 annually, which some traders had already started paying on installment as agreed.
He said the traders were shocked yesterday morning, when the revenue agency ordered them to close shops and sealed the market.
“They sealed the entire market notwithstanding that some traders had made some financial commitment to the state revenue Agency hence the sealing of the market did not go down well with some of the traders”.
Also, a source said that while the disagreement lasted, a member of the State Vigilante Service allegedly started shooting sporadically and injured about seven people, who were receiving treatment at the Federal Medical Centre, Umuahia but no death was recorded.
“ It was this shooting that forced some persons to retaliate thereby sparking off the clash,” the source, who craved anonymity added.
Speaking on the matter, the Commander General of the State Vigilante Service Mr. Idika Martins Mba, said his men were doing their legitimate duties when his office was consulted by the chairman of the Agency to assist in the collection of levies from the traders.
He lamented that his men were attacked by the traders who not only burnt down their office premises in the market but its security patrol Hilux van, two motorcycles, office equipment, whose value he put at over N50,000.00.
When contacted on telephone, Acting Chairman of the State Revenue Agency, Mr. Celestine Agbara told The Guardian that the Agency was doing the needful, stating that it would speak on the matter after Investigation.