19th July, 2010
Food dealers in Lagos State, Nigeria, have opted out of the planned strike by the national body to protest undue harassment and extortion of their members across the federation.
At a meeting with Governor Babatunde Fashola at the weekend, the food dealers, under the aegis of Amalgamated Cattle and Foodstuff Dealers Association of Nigeria, Lagos State Branch, resolved that there was no need to join the strike as it was the masses that would bear the brunt.
The General Secretary of the association, Alhaji Kabiru Alhasan, said the state government had looked into their complaints with a bid to addressing them, saying that officials of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA had since stopped disturbing traders on the road through indiscriminate towing of their lorries and trucks.
Alhassan, however, lamented that despite the efforts of the inter-ministerial committee, many of those collecting illegal levies were still on the road, adding that a new levy had just been introduced despite the intervention by the state government, just as several police checkpoints on the axis were still thriving.
He stated that despite the calls for another strike by the national body of the association, the Lagos body would not join any strike, because it was the traders who suffered more during such actions through losses.
The scribe commended the state government for re-assuring the traders when there were rumours making the rounds that traders at Mile 12 would be relocated, adding that the move had not only stabilised the traders but that Lagos is home to all and had also boosted the rent rates of the stalls in the market.
The Secretary expressed the support of the traders for the on-going road construction in Mile 12 saying that the traders co-operated with officials of the Ministry of Works about losing some stalls to the new road because it believed would enhance development of the area from which they would also benefit.
Lagos State Police Commissioner, Mr. Marvel Akpoyibo, expressed surprise at the report of continued police harassment of traders on the road.
He said in furtherance of the directive given by the governor on the issue, he convened a meeting with the leaders in his office and gave them functional phone numbers of his and other officers whom they could contact in times of distress, adding that he had received no such calls from any of the market leaders.
According to him, despite the fact that some of the road blocks in the boundary area were not mounted by the Lagos Police Command, they will ensure that unhindered access was granted to traders on the axis.
Speaking, Fashola charged concerned Federal Government agencies and sister States to take proactive steps to stamp out collection of illegal levies from the highways while appealing to the Amalgamated Cattle and Foodstuff Dealers Association of Nigeria to rule out strike as a form of protest because it was counter-productive.
The governor, who spoke at a meeting with the association at Marina on the Island added that those benefiting from the illegal levies were few people who could not override the interest of the majority.
According to him, if the traders remained resolute like the state government on the issue of eliminating those who extort money on the Lagos- Berger boundary axis, the wish of the majority would prevail.