Wednesday, 20 July 2022

Extortion: My Life Is Not Safe Watt Market Chairman Cries Out.

Asuquo Cletus Felix | 20th July 2022

The chairman of the Watt Market Shopping complex Traders Association, Mr Ike Bassey, has cried out over recent threats to his life by some unknown persons.

The threat, TDN gathered, is not unconnected to the alleged issue of extortion of N750 as daily tolls by the Mrs Esther Bassey's led Calabar South Local Government Authority. 

It was also learnt  the  traders pay N750, daily as market taxes which amounts to about N30,000 annually and many other fees imposed on them by the Chairman of the council.

Our Correspondents also gathered that despite pleading with the local government authorities, for the monies to be reduced,  the traders were not listened to, instead the chairman was alleged to have shut down the complex for 9 days.

Upon reopening after 9 days the traders were asked to pay 5,000 Naira as reopening fees. 

TDN further learnt that the traders who refused to pay the said reopening few were assaulted and beaten and their goods were sized and destroyed including their mobile phones.

Speaking in an interview with TDN, Mr Ike Bassey said

"We sell under rain, under sun, and some persons are throwing threatening words to me that they will kill me, they will deal with me.

"Please I am Ike Bassey, the chairman of the United Traders Association here in shopping center complex Calabar. My life is under threat for pleading and speaking out please yes help me".

All efforts to reach the Calabar South Local Government Chairman, Esther Bassey proved abortive, at the time of filing this report,  as she did not respond to calls, text messages as well as WhatsApp chats sent by our Correspondents.

But in a press release issued, and signed  by the media aide to the Local Government Chairman, Ruth Ekeng tittle Media Release, the statement denied that the chairman had imposed illegal fines, or extort monies from traders, but used legitimate means in collecting the money as required by government.

The statement reads in part" Traders are under no obligation to pay the sum of N750 daily ticketing levy neither is the council using intimidation to force them to secure the council's agreement form of good conduct with a penalty fee of N5000 for an attempt to cause unrest in the market.

 "Okrika traders who cannot afford to pay the stipulated amount are to vacate the shopping complex open space and relocate to Okrika line (Fosbery) where traders are billed N70 only for daily ticket (the government approved rate) as they will not be allowed to display their goods without showing proof of payment.
 "That the N750 toll is a sum total of various levies that was negotiated and agreed to be paid by those Okrika traders to the youths and other channels during previous administration. 

 "That the council only bills traders N70 daily N50 for sanitation and N20 for ticket daily, while the balance of N750 are paid to community youths, internal security team and the park owner. All these arrangements have been in existence for almost 10years before the advent of the Esther Bassey's led administration."