250 petty traders at Shopping Centre complex, Watt Market under the auspices of Unified Traders Association are currently being exploited and extorted by the youth in wards 3, 4 and 5 as well as the local government of Calabar South LGA led by Hon. Esther Bassey.
From data and estimates made available to me, Calabar South Local Council exerts unreceipted:
-daily ticketing for a year to the tune of nine million, seven hundred and fifty Naira (N9,750,000) only;
-annual space subletting amounting to seven million, five hundred thousand Naira (N7,500,000) only and
-monthly payments to youths totalling one million, five hundred thousand Naira (N1,500,000) only in a year, resulting to the gross total of eighteen million, seven hundred and fifty thousand Naira (N18,750,000) only.
Mr Ike Bassey a Cross Riverian and the Chair of United Traders Association at Shopping Centre while appealing to intervention of the state government disclosed that ‘…We pay N30,000 annually for space to Calabar South Local Council, N500 monthly to community youths and N750 daily for ticketing’.
According to the traders, a breakdown of the unreceipted N750 goes thus:
-N200 for serving and outgone councillors (allegedly collected by one Efanga Efanga),
-N200 instead of N50 for sanitation (morning and evening),
-N200 (collected allegedly by Tony Edem for settling PDP boys),
-N70 (collected by Mr Diamond for unknown ticketing),
-N50 (collected by Apostrophe for environment), and
-N100 every Wednesday by Stamula.
The challenge here is that the petty traders are now crying out against the extortion saying they can’t pay this N750 anymore after 9 years, while Calabar South Council with her beneficiary-youth of wards 3, 4 and 5 are insisting that the petty traders must continue paying. There has even been threats to life against the leadership of the Unified Traders Association and undignified treatments meted against the sales girls/boys and other traders.
On the other hand, the argument of Calabar South council on this matter is that the traders have spaces to do their trade inside the market where they will pay seventy Naira (N70) only (contrary to which if they must use the shopping centre space illegally, they must pay N750) but, the traders have countered explaining that there’s no such space anywhere at Watt Market, Calabar for which they can resort to.
The petty traders are asking Calabar South council authority to reduce the daily ticketing to four hundred and twenty Naira (N420) to which the chairperson of council refused. According to the petty traders, the chairperson said there’s nothing she can do to redress the exploitation, that since they had agreed to pay the fee much earlier they should continue on end. However, when they refused the continued payment they’re forced to stop displaying and selling their goods, products for 9 days after which when they resumed they’re asked by the council to pay the sum of five thousand Naira (N5,000) for ‘good behaviour.’
Now, the unilateral use of force by the local council authority to elicit compliance is totally unacceptable. Again, the decision of youths of Wards 3, 4 and 5 of Calabar South to continue extorting from the petty traders especially on the grounds of tribal sentimentalism will not address the issues. The selective treatment given in favour of Efik traders but, against Igbo traders will complicate the issues at stake.
I am suing for a resolution and/or peaceful resolution of the quarel amongst these three parties by a neutral party say the state government, traditional rulers, etc. I therefore propose mediation/conciliation should be explored where a neutral will mediate for the disputing three parties by assisting to highlight the real issues at stake and bring all parties to a common ground. This is not discountenancing the option of enforcing the Cross River Tax Exemption Law Of Low Income Earners Law No. 3, 2015.
Institute of Chartered Mediators and Conciliators, ICMC Nigeria