By Najib Husaini
Some petty phone accessories and food stuff vendors otherwise known as roadside traders in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), are now groaning under the persistent harassment by officials of the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB), which has negatively affected their business activities.
They decried the mounting pressure by the men of environmental task force of the Board to force them (traders) to move their business activities into the suburb of Federal capital city.
AEPB, which is the government agency saddled with the responsibility of ensuring a healthy environment for the residents of the FCT, while conserving the environment and its natural resources, including prohibiting street hawking.
However, in discharging its mandate the agency has allegedly accrued for itself a notorious habit of engaging in illegalitiessuch as extortion, brutality, intimidation and battery against ‘innocuous’ defaulters , including confiscation of their wares.
Narrating his ordeal, a crippled man, Alhaji Sunusi Muduru, who deals in phones accessories in Berger park roundabout vicinity decried that the development has remained a source of untold nightmare to him and others in the trade, as most rely on the business to fend for their families.
Specifically, he said had been relying on the trade to carter for his three wives and eleven children.
According to him, he said most of them have been encountering a lot of difficulties, but the major one is the threats of the AEPB, who are on a daily basis chasing them out of their place of business.
He pointed out that although, he has a farm in his hometown, which assists him to feed his family, but the major source of income is his phone accessories business.
He stressed that overcoming the threats from environmental enforcement agents, saying they are been deprived the right of trading within the vicinity of the city.
According to him, daily they open around 10 am and closed 7 pm, because of these people chasing us up and down. He added that he started the business eight years ago in Katsina state, before relocating to Abuja.
Asked about his educational qualification, Muduru, answered that: “I managed to finished his primary school education from 1976-1982, and proceeded to Government Secondary Technical School (GSTS) when the education of policy of 6-3-3-4 was in operation.
However, expressing optimistic that one day the nightmare wouldbe over, and business would start booming.
“The government doesn’t want us to beg and engaged in any simple business activities to carter for ourselves and families, yet they have any job for us to do; I wonder what they would want us to be doing.
“This Abuja should be for all- the rich and the poor members of the society, not what the government is doing to us, but we are not against them, let them take it easy, because the rich that they are trying to protect need our services in the city,” another street trader, who deals on beverages, Abubakar Isah, said.
He however appealed to the government to find a way of accommodating within the city, by fulsiling its promise to come up with occasional markets at some strategic locations in the city for people to carry out their small businesses.
Not left out, a roadside seller who sell foodstuff at a Park in Utako, Usman Abu, also complained that the activities of the AEPB officials are greatly intruding into their business by seizing their goods.
He alleges that their goods are only released to them on payment of a token or otherwise they will not see it forever.
But it appears that the traders’ woes are far from over going by the recent reorganization of the AEPB for effective environmental service delivery.
To this end,in what seems as a slimchange of tactics in its battle to rid Abuja of hawking and other forms of street trading, AEPB is set to move against traders in the markets.
Therefore, the Board vowed that it would not spare any trader in the markets supplying goods to street traders to sell on the streets or other prohibited areas, warning them to restrict their businesses to their shops in the markets, as the Board under the current leadership has zero tolerance for street trading and hawking in the Territory.