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The Wike That I Know

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Several comments, interpretations, narratives and theories have greeted the recent letter written by Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike of Rivers State to President Muhammadu Buhari, expressing the sincere appreciation of the Rivers State Government and people to Mr. President, for approving the sum of N78.9 billion to the state, as refund of monies expended by the State on federal  projects in the state.

Most of these responses have either been mischievous, absurd, totally misleading and some even trying to conjure and configure fabulist narratives, celebrating the mystique and magical influence of the power of money on the human psyche.

But the most remarkable of these is the one written by Femi Adesina, the Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity, titled: WIKE VINDICATES BUHARISTS.

To be sure, Femi Adesina’s opinion on any topic immediately attracts considerable attention and commands tremendous weight, not just for the fact that he has been a seasoned journalist  over the years, but indeed in recognition of his status as the Special Adviser to Mr. President Buhari on Media and Publicity; which makes him one of the recognized spokespersons of our President, whose views unequivocally represents the opinion of the Presidency in all matters.

 

It is therefore, in due cognizance of this latter responsibility and authority of his  portfolio, that one must appreciate and commend Femi Adesina for his  endorsement of Governor Nyesom Wike’s decision to thank President Buhari for approving the refund of N78.9 billion to Rivers State, and also the quite remarkable request for the President to oblige Rivers State with a State visit.

Of course, Femi Adesina’s admiration of Governor Nyesom Wike and his bold Thank You letter are embedded copiously in his article, though couched in the unerring profiling of the Rivers Governor in some lyrical passages and in some truculent, pro-Buhari obsessiveness in others.

The  point needs to be made unambiguously, that the Rivers State Government, by way of emphasizing what Governor Wike rightly stated in the letter, appreciates the magnanimity of President Buhari,with profound gratitude and deep sincerity.

It was Aesop, the legendary Greek fabulist and writer of fables, who said that “Gratitude is the sign of noble souls.”  There is certainly no doubt that one man who stands tall and proud, courageous and fearless with great nobility in today’s political space, is definitely Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike.

For instance, what Femi Adesina describes as “crying wolf” and “pontificating” is nothing more than  the ability to say and do things which other people are too frightened or lily livered to say or do; what we refer to in Nigeria as “dying in silence. ”

What Mr. Adesina surely knows is that one virtue that Governor Wike possesses is courage.  He has never hesitated to call anybody out including the President, his own party members and even multi-nationals operating in Rivers State, whenever the need arises and Adesina himself, has already agreed, by confessing to responding to some of these wolf cries in his write up, that these calls were necessary at the time they were made.

If Governor Wike’s courage to speak up when others are silent and cowering in fear, leads to the approval of the refund of the N78.9 billion which the Federal Government owes Rivers State, then the expression of gratitude that recognizes and appreciates such appropriate magnanimity is the highest form of nobility.

Like Mr. Femi Adesina rightly pointed out in his essay, the Federal Executive Council (FEC), chaired by President Buhari, approved the REFUND of N148 billion to five states in the country for repair of Federal roads, for which Rivers State got  N78.9 billion. But that is not even half the story.

For the avoidance of doubt and to set the records straight, it will be germane at this juncture to tell the true story of the refund and set the records straight, as presented by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, once and for all.

Giving a background to the reimbursement, Lai Mohammed had explained that the decision was sequel to a huge bill sent to the federal government by the entire 36 states of the federation in 2016, seeking a refund of funds they expended on the repair of some federal roads in their respective states.

He said: “You will recall that in 2016, 36 states of the federation sent a very huge bill to the federal government, asking for compensation for money that they have expended on federal roads. This prompted Mr. President to set up a committee to go and verify the claims of these 36 states, whether indeed, these projects were actually constructed. Were they completed in line with the federal government standards?

“At the end of that exercise by an inter-ministerial committee, chaired by the Minister of Works and Housing which also had ministers of education, transportation (and immediate past Governor of Rivers State,  Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi), minister of finance, minister of state for works, Director-General of the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) and permanent secretary, cabinet office as members, the committee recommended that the federal government should refund N550,364,297.31 billion to 31 of the 36 states, after they were convinced that, yes, indeed, the projects were completed and they were federal government roads.

“But the claims of five other states – Cross River, Rivers, Ondo, Bayelsa and Osun – failed on the grounds that they did not do proper documentation and the committee felt they needed proper documentation. So, the committee went back with new terms of reference to ensure that the claims of the five states were in order. That is why the BPP is on the committee.

“So, at the end of the exercise, the committee now reported that the five states – Cross River with 20 roads and one bridge will get a refund of N18,394,737,608.85; Ondo with six roads to get a refund of N7,822,147,577.08, and Osun with two roads and one bridge to get a refund of N2,468,938,876.78.

“Others are Bayelsa with five roads and one bridge to get a refund of N38,040,564,783.40 and Rivers with three roads and three flyover bridges is to get a refund of N78,953,067,518.29.”

From the above therefore, three important points stand out for particular interest and reference, viz:
1. The money is neither a generous loan gift or a desperate bailout package as people like Femi Adesina are shaping the narrative to sound, but a REFUND of monies already spent by  Rivers State on Federal projects.

 

2. Rivers State was initially denied the refund until proper documentation was provided; a situation which many Rivers watchers will recall, prompted the Minister of Works, Babatunde Raji Fashola, to visit Rivers State in March this year.

3. Rivers State  got the approval for the amount of refund simply because Rivers State did the most comprehensive, qualitative and enduring projects.

For record purposes, let us state clearly that President Buhari has the authority to visit any state he wants to in Nigeria, whether he is Invited or not. He is the father of the nation and Rivers State enjoys a candid, honest and robust relationship with the present Federal Government, especially the presidency.

On August 19, 2017, Governor Wike was among the dignitaries that welcomed President Buhari after 103 days in London where he received medical treatment for an undisclosed illness.

While naysayers were busy misinterpreting the gesture, Governor Wike explained that no sane person would not be happy that his sick President was back home.

Recall alsonthat Governor Wike was the first PDP Governor to congratulate President Buhari after his second term election victory was upheld by the Supreme Court in September last year. Indeed, the warm, cordial, respectful relationship between President Buhari and Governor Wike, captured in several widely circulated photographs, of the President’s visit to Rivers State to commission the international wing of the Port Harcourt international airport speaks volumes.

We need not also remind Mr. Adesina that as far back as February 2017, when Governor Wike was not even up to two years in Office, he had already been christened “Mr. Projects” by none other than the Vice President himself, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, who not only affirmed that Rivers State was an important state to Nigeria and the Federal Government, but has since endeared himself to Rivers State and Governor Wike.

This brings us nicely to the part of the letter where Governor Wike unequivocally appeals to President Buhari to honour Rivers State with a Presidential state visit and we ask Mr. Femi Adesina: ‘what is wrong with the Rivers State Governor inviting the President for a state visit. Is he not the Father of the nation again. Is Governor Wike not one of his children?

Considering the fact that the approval for the refund was also made for monies expended by Rivers State for Federal Projects, isn’t it equally apt that Governor Nyesom Wike should invite Mr. President to come and at least see the work for which the refund was made? Indeed, it will also provide Mr. President the grand opportunity to see first hand, the amazing and fantastic infrastructural wonders which Governor  Wike is delivering in Rivers State. This is absolutely the right thing to do by a grateful recepient.

Governor Wike has aptly pointed out that the decision to thank Mr. President and the appeal to invite him for a state visit was not a personal one, but a collective decision taken by the State Executive Council, to assure Mr. President that all is well with Rivers State and Rivers people are quite happy with him for approving the refund.

Like Femi Adesina correctly noted in his article, the N78.9 billion cannot be the reason for Governor Wike’s thank you letter and invitation to Mr. President. According to him: “I don’t think so. Rivers is by no means a poor state. The amount is handsome, no doubt, but the state is oil rich, and can hold her own when it comes to finances. I don’t agree less with Adesina because Governor Wike does not speak from both sides of his mouth and does not play to the gallery. His moral upbringing makes him to speak the truth at all times not minding whose ox is gored.

Finally, it is important to commend Mr. Adesina for  articulating and justifying the decision of Governor
Wike to thank Mr. President and invite him to Rivers State. There is absolutely no doubt, as he so succinctly pointed out, that millions of Buharists  would have actually advised the President not to approve the  refund  to Rivers State, and while many of them are still wailing and bellyaching at the President’s magnanimity, the icing on the refund cake is the chagrin and consternation, which even Adesina admits, has greeted Governor Nyesom Wike’s letter in their camp.

While Rivers people will not complain that the money was actually reduced from the original amount and that it even took so long for President Buhari’s fairness and justice to touch Rivers State, while he has been fair and just to other states, we are all still very happy and grateful that this approval for refund has been made, finally.

Attempts by people like Adesina to make political capital out of the genuine stance of a statesman will not be bought by well-meaning Nigerians.

What makes Adesina’s grandstanding more worrisome is that he will never comment or let the world know how much the South-West States received as refund for federal projects executed in that part of the country.

Governor  Wike’s letter of appreciation and appeal for a presidential state visit is thus a clear indication that what the people thought was lost has now been recovered. All is well that ends well and Rivers people are happy.

For the avoidance of doubt, the letter to Mr. President was delivered to Aso Rock, three weeks before it was published.

Governor Wike is not like Adesina who knows how to speak from both sides of his mouth. In 2008, he said this about the Chief of Staff to the President: “Gambari enslaved himself to please his paymasters. Now 13 years after, the shackles are still tied around his neck, threatening to asphyxiate him. What an eternal lesson for fawning bootlicking grovellers to learn. Old sins indeed have long shadows.”

Now that Gambari is Chief of Staff to the President, people have been asking if Adesina still sees Gambari’s sins’ shadows or he(Adesina) has turned to a bootlicking groveller?

There is no doubt that he is currently savouring the office of Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity as a compensation, having used his positions as former Editor-In-Chief of The Sun Newspapers and President of the Nigerian Guild of Editors to feather his own nest.

Adesina should be told that no amount of political mischief will turn Governor Wike from a hero to a villain in this matter.

The Wike that I know  cannot be swayed by pecuniary  interests. He will always stand for the truth and defend the interests of Rivers people.

Nsirim is the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State.

 

 

By Paulinus Nsirim

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Food Preservation: Time To Check Traders’ Excesses

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Have you ever bought oranges, mangoes, bananas, plantain and some other agricultural produce and wondered about their taste? Were they plucked before maturity? Were they cooked or ripened with chemicals, especially calcium carbide among others? Were they washed with detergents?
Calcium carbide is a chemical compound that is industrially used in the production of calcium cyanamide for fertilizer and also in welding. When calcium carbide comes into contact with water it produces acetylene gas that hastens the ripening of several fruits such as mangoes, bananas and apples.
These are some unscrupulous practices by traders in the various major and minor markets around us that pose a big threat to human health.
Food is one of the necessities of life, besides shelter and clothing. Through food, the human body is nourished with various nutrients, including carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals essential for making a person healthy.
In as much as human beings cannot survive without food, how the food is handled after harvest and during storage can be a big threat to a person’s health and general well-being.
Agriculture analysts believe that apart from the abuse of fertilizer application at various stages of planting, the use of chemicals for storage and ripening of fruits has become a huge cause for concern. So also is the washing of fruits, vegetables, nuts and root crops with detergents.
According to them, general abuse of agricultural produce, especially beans and other grains by traders in markets and vendors or retailers at different selling locations have reached an alarming stage.
It is common today to see fruits, vegetables, nuts and root crops retailers and vendors washing them with detergent. Equally disturbing is the traders’ use of carbides to ripen fruits and pesticides like Sniper on beans to prevent or remove weevils’ infestations.
Chief Akanbi Adeoye, the leader (Babaloja) of Ikosi Market, popularly known as Jakande Fruit Market, Ketu, Lagos State, blames fruits and vegetables vendors and retailers outside the major markets for such practices.
“Our information and security officers have not made complaints about such incidents in this market.
“Here, fruits and vegetables are sold on wholesale basis to traders from all parts of the state and they carry them in bulk to their various markets and selling locations,’’ he said.
Mr Adebayo Damola, a trader and wholesaler of plantain, pears, avocado, pineapples and bananas among others, says those who use carbide to ripen fruits and vegetables and wash them with detergents do it outside the major markets.
“Here, we are middlemen to farmers who entrust us with their produce which come straight from their farms.
“We sell in bulk to traders within and outside this market and they take them to places where they sell.
“However, l know that fruit and vegetable retailers and vendors use carbides to make them ripe fast.
“I know too that some wash them with detergents to remove the soil and make it clean enough for display to attract customers,’’ he said.
Damola says that in using carbide to ripen fruits, it is not sprinkled on the fruits or vegetables, but dropped at the centre after arranging the fruits in circular form and then cover with cloth.
He adds that it is the heat generated by covering it with cloth that causes the fruits and vegetables to ripen within 20 hours to 24 hours.
An agricultural engineer and retired staff of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Umudike, Umuahia in Abia State, Mr Mba Agu, says it is not the duty of traders to apply agro pesticides like Sniper on gains, especially beans.
“The application of pesticides on any agricultural produce, especially on beans and other grains, is for agriculture professionals and not traders.
“Agriculture professionals are trained to apply agro pesticides and insecticides on agricultural produces in a way that it will not be harmful when consumed.
“The problem is that people think that they can use Sniper and any other pesticides on agricultural produce without the input of those trained to do so.
“All pesticides and insecticides are bad and dangerous, at the same time still useful when used in correct proportions.
“If wrongly used, they become hazardous and dangerous for consumption and become cause for an array of health issues,’’ he said.
Sniper is one of the agricultural pesticides used to control insects and pests on grains and seeds and other wide range of produce.
Sniper contains Dichlorovinyl Dimethyphosphate (DDVP) 1000mg, Sodium Sulphate and Enzymes as recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Agu says there are three methods through which pesticides can be applied on beans and other produces for storage.
According to him, the pesticides are mixed in the material at recommended doses, sprayed around the warehouse for bulk storage or surface of the material in a container.
Agu believes that it is time pest control officers leave their comfort zones and enter the markets to sanitise the abuse of pesticides application on grains, especially beans.
He says it is time too that the National Agriculture Council dispatch its seed law enforcement officers to the markets to regularly take samples of grains for laboratory test and analyses.
For Dr John Olaoye, an agriculture engineer and lecturer, Department of Agriculture, University of Ilorin, farmers are and should always be encouraged to minimise the application of pesticides on beans, grains and other produce during storage.
“This is because during the planting stage, a lot of pesticides are used at flowering stage to protect it from pests.
“At the storage stage, it is advisable to use natural materials like pepper or by exposing the produce to oxygen.
“If you must use pesticides and there are residual content on the produce still remaining, it is still harmful,’’ he said.
Olaoye notes that the properties in DDVP pesticides were such that can vaporise.
According to him, if professionally applied, by the time of cooking at a boiling point of between 75 degree centigrade and 100 degree centigrade, the material will vaporise and will not be part of what is consumed.
“However, there are herbal formulations which are natural that can be used to prevent grains and other agricultural produce from pests and insects attack that were not harmful,’’ he said.
Olaoye says that since the market is the prerogative of the local government councils, the councils should revive their community and public health officers as was the case in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and early part of 1980s.
He adds that it is not enough for the local government to collect levy and issue receipts without doing the work of sanitising what comes out from the markets and upgrading the market structures.
The Unilorin teacher says that the community and public health officials check traders, what they have in stock, how they are stored and displayed for sale to ensure they are good for consumption.
They also stamp animals before they are slaughtered for sell as meat in the markets, adding that they also visit houses and test water from public mains and boreholes from which the occupants are drinking.
According to him, it is a pity that community and public health officers are not part of our system any more. However, the sooner the community and public health workers are brought back, the better it will be for everybody. Therefore, it behoves the government, especially local government councils, to be up and doing to safeguard the health of the citizens.
Dr Ikechi Agbugba, a vegetable expert and lecturer, University of Port Harcourt, says the misuse of any chemical on agricultural produce is a killer.
“How on earth will anybody wash fruits and vegetables and any other produce with detergents? What happens to water and sponge?
“This happens because traders always prefer the easy way out.
“The government has to be proactive to be able to check the excesses of traders and food vendors by apprehending and prosecuting offenders,’’ he suggested.
According to him, it is better to wash fruits and vegetables with clean water and sponge.
Agbugba says research works have shown that traders and food vendors are ignorant of the implications of what they are doing. He notes that organising and encouraging traders to form associations and get those doing similar trading to register is the easy way to enlightening traders on this.
“The market crier is useful in reaching them and telling them how to improve on handling hygienically the wares they have for sale,’’ he said.
On the whole, the federal and state ministries of agriculture should deploy their seeds law enforcement officers and pest control officers to major markets and produce retail outlets to ensure that what they are selling is good for the body when consumed by unsuspecting consumers.
Agu is of the News Agency of Nigeria.

 

By:  Chidinma Agu

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As Illegal Parks, Street Trading Return In PH…

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As part of measures to restore the Garden City status of Port Harcourt, the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike,sometime ago, inaugurated a taskforce on street trading and Illegal motor parks.
The taskforce which was headed by a Director General had the mandate to stop operations of illegal street trading and motor parks that littered Port Harcourt City and its environs.
Rumuokoro, Diobu and some parts of Old Port Harcourt township were notorious in terms of illegal motor parks and street trading. These areas were chaotic with all manner of criminal activities being carried out.
However, few days after the establishment of the state taskforce, the menace vanished and orderliness reigned in the city. A drive from Rumuokoro to Mile 3 Park that took over 45 minutes under the then chaotic atmosphere could be achieved in less than 20 minutes.
On street trading in particular, the taskforce was able to eradicate all Illegal activities in the city. Most traders who abandoned their shops in Mile 3 Market in preference to street trading, returned to their shops as those found contravening the street trading laws were arrested and prosecuted.
Dissatisfied by the avalanche of allegations of bribery against officers of the taskforce, Gov Wike disbanded the Bright Amaewhule-led taskforce and promised to constitute another agency to pursue the noble objective of eradicating street trading and illegal motor parks.
However, few months after the dissolution of the state taskforce on street trading and Illegal motor parks, the menace has returned. Virtually all street particularly in Diobu area of Port Harcourt are being decorated with wares of all sorts.
Robert Bassey, a taxi driver, who spoke on the issue said some persons who benefit from the illegal motor parks have viewed the absence of the taskforce as a big opportunity to operate.
Bassey said: “Operators of the illegal motor parks make a lot of money daily. They were chased out of business by the taskforce, so now that the state government has dissolved the outfit, they are fully back to business.
“Not only the operators of the illegal motor parks benefit from the illegality. Take a careful look, you now find out that some private bus stops are also back to the stage. I will not mention names but you will see those begging some commercial bus drivers to stop at certain areas that were not among legal bus stops and after loading you see money being secretly given out in rapped up palms”.
The cab driver described illegal motor parks as a very lucrative business venture run by die-hard individuals or group and that they are always there looking for an opportunity to operate.
He revealed that actions of the government like the taskforce that was set up by Gov Wike drastically reduced their operations.
“I have operated as taxi driver in Port Harcourt for over 30 years and I know their antics. Actions of government like the former taskforce put in place by Gov Wike drastically reduced their operations but did not eradicate the menace.
“What they do is to find ways of incriminating officials in charge such that you illegally allow them to operate or find ways to make government disband them”, he said.
Another commercial bus driver, who identified himself as Bob Newman operates on Rumuokoro- Mile 3 Park route. He blamed park operators in Mile 3 Park for the problem.
“Oga, just enter the Mile 3 Park and you will find out that there is no space for buses and taxis. They have converted the whole big park to Market. So that is why we are parking and loading outside here.
“Imagine Mile 3 Park which is the largest park in Port Harcourt with over 75 per cent of the space converted to market. If we go there now to oppose them, the Government people will say we have come to make problem. So, we shall continue to operate here for our business”, he said.
Another respondent, who simply gave his name as Mr. Mark and an official of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW)revealed that most Illegal motor parks are run secretly by some disgruntled officials or members of the transport unions.
“They have ideas about how parks are being run and employ stubborn persons as managers. The union is having this problem, but each time their matter comes for deliberation, they create confusion.
“The only solution is for the Governor to constitute a new taskforce so that they will be chased out of business. Otherwise, more and more of such parks” would spring up.
On the operation of illegal bus stops, Mark said uniformed officers, union members and some community boys are behind such.
At Ojoto-Azikiwe Round About which has turned to a street market few metres from the Ojoto market, Miss Clara Nwuche, who sells vegetables told The Tide that though some of them have shops but that there is more patronage by the roadside than in the market.
“What is the gain sitting in the shop without buyers when those who do not pay for shops make better sales here.
“Some of us on this road come from the villages with our stuffs, they sell them off in two hours’ time and off to the village. The following morning, they return back. They don’t have the money to rent shops in the market,” she said.
Comfort Gigi, another street trader, said “No, we are not operating illegally here. We pay money every day and they allow us operate.
“The law is that we must clean the place after selling. They collect N300 and people with bigger Market pay N500 per day but the law is that we must keep the place clean.
Some residents yearn for the coming of the new taskforce promised by Governor
Wike, while dissolving the bribe-infested former one, promised to constitute a more disciplined outfit.
A public analyst, Boni Bontus, said the public encomium that followed the coming of the former taskforce was an obvious mark of public acceptance.
“Let our able Governor set up another one to continue with the job, otherwise the trend would continue to graduate to what we had even before the coming of Gov Wike’s administration.
“It is not as if those behind these illegal motor parks and street trading don’t know that what they are doing is wrong. You see it is like drug business. The cartels know it is wrong, but the kind of money they make on daily basis,you and I can’t imagine.
“My problem is not with those drivers that are being lured to operate or the poor petty traders that make small, small money to survive with their families, but those behind the cartels. They go home with alot of money and tip some government people to turn away their faces.
“Immediately the cartel members are stopped, the game will be over for everybody involved. I trust Gov Wike.He has thorough knowledge of his environment and I believe that he is up to one good plan. What of course is the time? I think the best time is now”.
He expressed the need for the engagement of persons of very credible character to man the new taskforce so that they would not fall prey to the antics of the cartels. According to him, some persons in Government are part of the cartels and know how to get through when their members have issues with the authority.
“If men of character are involved in the running of the new taskforce, it would be difficult to bribe them and make mess of this lofty idea of the state government.
The roads are getting tighter by the day and it is obvious that with the rush that is associated with the Yuletide, the problem would be more compounded.
With the commendable efforts of the present administration led by Gov Wike in road constructions, particularly the coming of more new flyover bridges, one can feel the serenity of the much-expected Garden City.
The disorderliness and chaos being promoted by the surging illegal motor parks and street trading in Port Harcourt and its environs, appear to be contradicting the lofty efforts of the state government.

 

By: Chris Oluoh

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As Illegal Parks, Street Trading Return In PH…

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As part of measures to restore the Garden City status of Port Harcourt, the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike,sometime ago, inaugurated a taskforce on street trading and Illegal motor parks.
The taskforce which was headed by a Director General had the mandate to stop operations of illegal street trading and motor parks that littered Port Harcourt City and its environs.
Rumuokoro, Diobu and some parts of Old Port Harcourt township were notorious in terms of illegal motor parks and street trading. These areas were chaotic with all manner of criminal activities being carried out.
However, few days after the establishment of the state taskforce, the menace vanished and orderliness reigned in the city. A drive from Rumuokoro to Mile 3 Park that took over 45 minutes under the then chaotic atmosphere could be achieved in less than 20 minutes.
On street trading in particular, the taskforce was able to eradicate all Illegal activities in the city. Most traders who abandoned their shops in Mile 3 Market in preference to street trading, returned to their shops as those found contravening the street trading laws were arrested and prosecuted.
Dissatisfied by the avalanche of allegations of bribery against officers of the taskforce, Gov Wike disbanded the Bright Amaewhule-led taskforce and promised to constitute another agency to pursue the noble objective of eradicating street trading and illegal motor parks.
However, few months after the dissolution of the state taskforce on street trading and Illegal motor parks, the menace has returned. Virtually all street particularly in Diobu area of Port Harcourt are being decorated with wares of all sorts.
Robert Bassey, a taxi driver, who spoke on the issue said some persons who benefit from the illegal motor parks have viewed the absence of the taskforce as a big opportunity to operate.
Bassey said: “Operators of the illegal motor parks make a lot of money daily. They were chased out of business by the taskforce, so now that the state government has dissolved the outfit, they are fully back to business.
“Not only the operators of the illegal motor parks benefit from the illegality. Take a careful look, you now find out that some private bus stops are also back to the stage. I will not mention names but you will see those begging some commercial bus drivers to stop at certain areas that were not among legal bus stops and after loading you see money being secretly given out in rapped up palms”.
The cab driver described illegal motor parks as a very lucrative business venture run by die-hard individuals or group and that they are always there looking for an opportunity to operate.
He revealed that actions of the government like the taskforce that was set up by Gov Wike drastically reduced their operations.
“I have operated as taxi driver in Port Harcourt for over 30 years and I know their antics. Actions of government like the former taskforce put in place by Gov Wike drastically reduced their operations but did not eradicate the menace.
“What they do is to find ways of incriminating officials in charge such that you illegally allow them to operate or find ways to make government disband them”, he said.
Another commercial bus driver, who identified himself as Bob Newman operates on Rumuokoro- Mile 3 Park route. He blamed park operators in Mile 3 Park for the problem.
“Oga, just enter the Mile 3 Park and you will find out that there is no space for buses and taxis. They have converted the whole big park to Market. So that is why we are parking and loading outside here.
“Imagine Mile 3 Park which is the largest park in Port Harcourt with over 75 per cent of the space converted to market. If we go there now to oppose them, the Government people will say we have come to make problem. So, we shall continue to operate here for our business”, he said.
Another respondent, who simply gave his name as Mr. Mark and an official of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW)revealed that most Illegal motor parks are run secretly by some disgruntled officials or members of the transport unions.
“They have ideas about how parks are being run and employ stubborn persons as managers. The union is having this problem, but each time their matter comes for deliberation, they create confusion.
“The only solution is for the Governor to constitute a new taskforce so that they will be chased out of business. Otherwise, more and more of such parks” would spring up.
On the operation of illegal bus stops, Mark said uniformed officers, union members and some community boys are behind such.
At Ojoto-Azikiwe Round About which has turned to a street market few metres from the Ojoto market, Miss Clara Nwuche, who sells vegetables told The Tide that though some of them have shops but that there is more patronage by the roadside than in the market.
“What is the gain sitting in the shop without buyers when those who do not pay for shops make better sales here.
“Some of us on this road come from the villages with our stuffs, they sell them off in two hours’ time and off to the village. The following morning, they return back. They don’t have the money to rent shops in the market,” she said.
Comfort Gigi, another street trader, said “No, we are not operating illegally here. We pay money every day and they allow us operate.
“The law is that we must clean the place after selling. They collect N300 and people with bigger Market pay N500 per day but the law is that we must keep the place clean.
Some residents yearn for the coming of the new taskforce promised by Governor
Wike, while dissolving the bribe-infested former one, promised to constitute a more disciplined outfit.
A public analyst, Boni Bontus, said the public encomium that followed the coming of the former taskforce was an obvious mark of public acceptance.
“Let our able Governor set up another one to continue with the job, otherwise the trend would continue to graduate to what we had even before the coming of Gov Wike’s administration.
“It is not as if those behind these illegal motor parks and street trading don’t know that what they are doing is wrong. You see it is like drug business. The cartels know it is wrong, but the kind of money they make on daily basis,you and I can’t imagine.
“My problem is not with those drivers that are being lured to operate or the poor petty traders that make small, small money to survive with their families, but those behind the cartels. They go home with alot of money and tip some government people to turn away their faces.
“Immediately the cartel members are stopped, the game will be over for everybody involved. I trust Gov Wike.He has thorough knowledge of his environment and I believe that he is up to one good plan. What of course is the time? I think the best time is now”.
He expressed the need for the engagement of persons of very credible character to man the new taskforce so that they would not fall prey to the antics of the cartels. According to him, some persons in Government are part of the cartels and know how to get through when their members have issues with the authority.
“If men of character are involved in the running of the new taskforce, it would be difficult to bribe them and make mess of this lofty idea of the state government.
The roads are getting tighter by the day and it is obvious that with the rush that is associated with the Yuletide, the problem would be more compounded.
With the commendable efforts of the present administration led by Gov Wike in road constructions, particularly the coming of more new flyover bridges, one can feel the serenity of the much-expected Garden City.
The disorderliness and chaos being promoted by the surging illegal motor parks and street trading in Port Harcourt and its environs, appear to be contradicting the lofty efforts of the state government.

 

By: Chris Oluoh

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