This morning at about 10am I heard an altercation on the main road in front of Hilltop Primary School. Some of the children were playing outside less than 100 yards away. The altercation was between an illegal police check point right in front of the school where the road was bad forcing vehicles to slow down.
The police at the check point had tried to stop a G Wagon that was passing. The driver didn’t stop at first then stopped a little way in front. The police, apparently enraged, jumped into his car and seized the car keys. The driver, aware resisted them and before you know it shots were fired. More people gathered.
The gathered Umuaka Youths became restive. Calls were made, the DPO and the DCO arrived with a squad of police men. The DPO tried to convince the driver to go to the police station with them and settle the matter but he resisted. The crowd grew. The mob remembered the police. The police remembered the mob.
In 2006 twin brothers from Achara Umuaka that excavated sand by the River Njaba for a living – the only job creating industry in Umuaka and an ecological disaster – were in a tipper going to work. They had just dropped firewood for their old mother and before proceeding for the days work. They got to the police check point just before the Njaba bridge. It was always there extorting money from the industry.
The police stopped the tipper. The driver didn’t or couldn’t stop, a police man jumped up on the running board and shot the driver through the window. The tipper went out of control and rolled over. The twins in the flat bed of the truck were crushed under it and died instantly. The youths of Umuaka heard and a mob proceeded to the crash site.
That day was a day in the history of Umuaka. The youths burnt the police vehicle at the check point and went and sacked the police station. All the police officers ran away. The rioting youths broke into the armoury and took all the weapons. That night there was an air of celebration in the air. The occupiers had been defeated. But the feeling didn’t last for long.
The commissioner of police sent for reinforcements from Calabar. The next morning they invaded the community. Four battalions of anti riot police men drove through the town shooting sporadically. The citizens abandoned what ever they were doing and ran into the bush. An eye witness describes a siege and seeing the old and physically challenged running for dear life. The immobile were left behind.
After scattering and subduing the populace the police looted and destroyed the market. They broke into shops and scattered the contents, pouring vegetable oil into rice strewn across the street and mixing rice and garri from sacks. Only they know what may have happened to any money or other valuables.
Today a community leader faced off with the police, reminding them of the restiveness of Umuaka youths, questioning their wisdom in firing shots so close to a school and what may have happened if there had been a death. The DPO is new, he doesn’t know the history or he wants to win his promotion by subduing the restive town. That may be a hard sell.
Did I mention before that there is a ‘Biafra Command” here? I’ve asked what it means but no one wants to tell me. Is it because I am a woman? I laugh in Igbo.