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‘It was less about ethnicity… the crowd was uncontrollable’ — Alaba traders speak on voter registration brawl

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‘It was less about ethnicity… the crowd was uncontrollable’ — Alaba traders speak on voter registration brawl

On Thursday, there were comments on social media claiming that thugs had attacked traders from the Alaba market during a voter registration exercise in Ojo area of the state. 

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The traders were said to have shut their stalls to enable those who had not registered for their PVCs to do so. 

The move was said to have increased the number of registrants on Thursday at the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) office, Igbede, Ojo. 

Addressing the claims, Benjamin Hundeyin, Lagos police spokesperson, in a tweet on his official handle, said the situation had nothing to do with ethnicity, saying the people were “simply large in number”.

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A witness told TheCable that Alaba traders did not represent the entire population present for the voter registration exercise on the day.

‘It was less about ethnicity… the crowd was uncontrollable’ — Alaba traders speak on voter registration brawl

Aerial view of Alaba market

“I also came to change my name due to marriage,” she said, adding that the issue had less to do with ethnicity and more to do with breakdown of order.

“You know, when a fight breaks out, thugs can beat anybody in their way. People should not spread fake news, nobody died but people were injured.” 

A group of security officers was said to have gone into the INEC office “with someone that looked like a traditional ruler or an eminent person in the society”, leaving the already-tensed crowd — queuing outside the main gate of the INEC office — furious.

‘It was less about ethnicity… the crowd was uncontrollable’ — Alaba traders speak on voter registration brawl

Ojo INEC office

“They entered the office at a time when three people were about to be called in for registration. When the wealthy man came out, a guy tried removing his plate number but the wealthy man stopped him. I think somebody slapped the wealthy man from the back,” she said. 

According to her, a few minutes after the man left the vicinity, thugs arrived on bikes, noting that there might be a connection between both incidents. 

“Because guys will be guys, instead of handling the issue with patience, they rushed and were injured. In fact, somebody who jumped a fence broke his leg and was rushed to the hospital,” she said. 

According to her, nobody knew the tribe of the man who confronted the wealthy man but the thugs were said to chant “you won’t register Igbos” as they dispersed the crowd.

She, however, said there was a restoration of calm after the police intervened and chased the thugs away. 

Zubi Mmadueke, a middle-aged trader at the Alaba market, corroborated her claim.

“We were waiting for them to start the registration but it didn’t happen. A few moments later, a group of soldiers arrived in a convoy”.

Giving a slightly different account, Mmadueke said they “packed the printer inside a Hilux vehicle and went away with it”. 

“Not too long after, we saw many bikes – more than twenty bikes – with thugs wielding sticks,” he said.

‘It was less about ethnicity… the crowd was uncontrollable’ — Alaba traders speak on voter registration brawl

Traders inside Alaba market

“They started chasing Igbo people away, telling us that everybody should leave and asking why we closed the market to register for PVC. Everybody ran away and I don’t think anybody was able to register that day.”

Samuel Iyanuoluwa Poopla, another trader, said the traders had been informed that they should register for PVCs, expecting a smooth exercise. However, the traders were said to be disappointed at the handling of the exercise by INEC. 

“You should see how they were treating humans. Officers stood at the gate as people were being called in. The largest crowd was outside the gate but a number of people were also inside,” he said. 

Joy Okoronkwo, another trader at Alaba market, said the crowd was “large and discouraging”. 

She said this prompted her decision to leave the INEC office for a registration centre at Shibiri. 

“When I got to Shibiri, we still wrote down our names but we were told that anybody who does not live in that area should go home,” she said.

When TheCable visited the INEC office, Ojo, on Friday, a group of people, over 20, were seen clustering around an INEC officer, who addressed them on the need to be patient; even as others remained on their seats unbothered, some visibly angry. 

Speaking on the issue, Olusegun Agbaje, resident electoral commissioner (REC), INEC, Lagos, confirmed the incident to TheCable. 

“I understand that there was some clash between thugs and area boys but not within our premises. Our work went on smoothly yesterday and even today, there was no problem in our office in Ojo local government,” he said. 

Reacting to claims by traders that there were only two registration machines at the office, he said it was because others were deployed to other parts of the local government. 

“The machines were taken to other wards and that started over a month ago,” Agbaje said. 

“Additional machines have now been sent to Lagos state and by next Tuesday, they are going to deploy them to all the local governments to further support what they have now.”

According to him, INEC did not mandate the Alaba traders to close their shops. 

“It is unfair as they made it look as if INEC is not able to cope. It is not true. There is no way anybody can cope with that large number of people,” he said. 

“What we are arranging now is that we are discussing with the leadership of the market to let them know that maybe in batches now that we are going to have more machines in the area.” 


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