Shop owners in Nigeria’s popular Alaba International Market closed their businesses on Thursday to register and collect the Permanent Voters Card (PVC) ahead of the 2023 national polls.
The Alaba International Market is the biggest electronics market in West Africa. The closure affected banks and other service providers around the market.
The ever busy market had few people around on Thursday morning as all the shops were locked.
In a viral video on social media, a man ringing a bell in the market announced to the traders that possession of PVC is mandatory.
“They said to inform you that Thursday next tomorrow, there will be a total lockdown everywhere Igbos are doing business and at Alaba International so that everybody will go and collect his/her PVC,” the man said, in Igbo.
“If you have an apprentice in your shop who is 17 years and above or you have a secretary in your shop who is over 17 years old. All of them must have a PVC.
“Starting from Monday next week, we will start a patrol called Operation Show Your PVC. If they come to your shop and you don’t show your PVC, know that you have broken the (market) union’s law. If your secretary doesn’t show hers, she has also broken the law. If your apprentice doesn’t have it, he has broken the law.”
Some bankers whose offices were within the market, could not get access to their offices.
Another trader explained that they were informed about the closure of the market by the leader of market union. A trader, James Oladimeji, said “We have discovered that our votes can count, so we want to join hands to change the system. It is not a question of Igbo, Yoruba or Hausa, what is happening affects every tribe and we need the best candidate.”
Following the concerted effort to get their PVCs ahead of closing date, some users on social media claimed Thursday that the Ojo Local Government secretariat was stormed by hoodlums after the traders besieged the INEC office there for their PVCs.
One alleged on Twitter that INEC officials attempted to disenfranchise the traders because of their ethnic group.
“The INEC officials refused to register Igbo people, they insisted the centre will only Register Yoruba people, one of d Inec officials(an Igbo) was told he will be dealt with if he ever registers his people,” he tweeted.
The posts were retweeted more than 3,000 times. But the police spokesperson, Benjamin Hundeyin, dismissed the claims.
“First, this wasn’t about Igbos. These are the facts behind the trending videos. The entire Alaba International Market decided to close the market today to enable the traders to register for their PVCs. A phased closure would have been better,” he tweeted.
“Consequently, the Ojo Local Government venue of the registration was besieged by a mammoth crowd.
“The situation was made worse by the fact that only one registration terminal was working. One of the people who came for registration made trouble and was challenged by those around.
“Going by simple probability, the attacker or the attacked is very likely to be Igbo. They were simply large in number. However, given this incident, ethnic colouration would not help matters. The entire episode lasted a few minutes.”
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