The Yam Zone Assignment
30 June, 2020, a few hundred young men with sticks and iron poles stream out of Yam Zone market. They pull down a police traffic post and drag it someway along Aggrey Road. Someone in the crowd says that a welder in Yam Zone has been hacked to death by the State Task Force. Why? For parking his welding machine too close to the curb.
The Rivers State Task Force on Street Trading, Illegal Markets and Motor Parks was inaugurated by the state governor, Ezenwo Nyesom Wike, on the 21 August, 2019. He claimed the aim of the task force was to restore Port Harcourt’s Garden City status, to clean up and calm the streets, to restore order to rowdy illegal markets. Where some saw liveliness, he saw lawlessness; where some saw commerce, he saw chaos; where some saw vibrancy, he saw violence.
Following the rumours of the welder’s death, the Chicoco Radio team launched an investigation into the events of 30 June. Had a man died? Under what circumstances? Had anyone been held accountable? Was this part of a broader pattern of task force behaviour and heightened tensions with street traders during the pandemic? In what ways might the governor be implicated? What might this reveal about successive administrations’ attitudes to public markets, street traders and the kinds of informal work that the overwhelming majority of ordinary Nigerians are employed in? This was the beginning of our Yam Zone assignment.
We are releasing this ambitious investigative programme after a wave of forced evictions and demolitions in Port Harcourt has displaced up to 22,000 people in a single week. Yam Zone Assignment reveals a deep-seated violence that this administration’s policies has aimed at the lives and livelihoods of ordinary people in Port Harcourt, many of whom work daily in the country’s majority economy, an economy some call ‘informal’.
Producers: Fathia Blaze and Prince Nosa
Technical producer: Promise Sunday
Presented by: Fathia Blaze
Additional reporting and photography by Charity Saturday and Isaac Harry