Calabar South Vs Shopping Center Petty Traders Fiasco: Issues, Perspectives & Resolution BY EFIO-ITA NYOK

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250 petty traders at the Shopping Center complex, Watt Market under the auspices of Unified Traders Association are currently being exploited and extorted by the youths in Wards 3, 4 and 5 as well as the Calabar South Local Government Council led by Hon. Esther Bassey.

From data and estimates made available to me, Calabar South Local Government Council extorts unreceipted:
1. Daily ticketing for a year to the tune of nine million, seven hundred and fifty Naira (NGN9,750,000) only;
2. Annual space subletting amounting to seven million, five hundred thousand Naira (NGN7,500,000) only and,
3. Monthly payments to youths totaling one million, five hundred thousand Naira (NGN1,500,000) only in a year, resulting in a gross total of eighteen million, seven hundred and fifty thousand Naira (NGN18,750,000) only.

Mr Ike Bassey, a Cross Riverian and the Chairman of the United Traders Association at Shopping Center while appealing to intervention of the State government disclosed that, “we pay NGN30,000 annually for space to Calabar South Local Government Council, NGN500 monthly to community youths and NGN750 daily for ticketing’.

According to the traders, a breakdown of the unreceipted NGN750 goes thus:
– NGN200 for serving and former councilors (allegedly collected by one Effanga Effanga),
– NGN200 instead of NGN50 for sanitation (morning and evening),
– NGN200 (collected allegedly by Tony Edem for settling PDP boys),
– NGN70 (collected by Mr. Diamond for unknown ticketing),
– NGN50 (collected by Apostrophe for environment), and
– NGN100 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 NGN750 anymore after nine years, while Calabar South Council with her beneficiary-youths of Wards 3, 4 and 5 are insisting that the petty traders must continue paying. There have even been threats to life against the leadership of the Unified Traders Association and undignified treatments meted up against the sales girls/boys and other traders.

On the other hand, the argument of the 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 (NGN70) only (contrary to which if they must use the shopping center space illegally, they must pay NGN750) 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 the Calabar South Council authority to reduce the daily ticketing to four hundred and twenty Naira (N420), which the Chairperson of Council refused.

According to the petty traders, the Chairperson said there is nothing she can do to address the exploitation, that since they had agreed to pay the fee much earlier, they should continue to the end.

However, when they refused the continued payment, they were forced to stop displaying and selling their goods and products for nine days after which when they resumed, they were asked by the Council to pay the sum of five thousand Naira (NGN5,000) for ‘good behavior.’

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 favor 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 quarrel 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 party 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.

Efio-Ita Nyok, a Cross Riverian and member-elect of the Institute of Chartered Mediators and Conciliators, ICMC Nigeria, writes in from Calabar.

NB: Opinions expressed in this article are strictly attributable to the author, Efio-Ita Nyok, and do not represent the opinion of CrossRiverWatch or any other organization the author works for/with.


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