Monday, 18 July 2022

Watt Market Traders, Accuse Calabar South LG Boss Of Harassment, Extortion

By Asuquo Cletus Felix

The chairman of Calabar South Local Government Area, Mrs Esther  Bassey, has been accused by traders at the shopping centre in Watt Market, Calabar the Cross River State Capital of Extortion and incessant Harassment using thugs. 

TDN gathered that 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.

The traders informed 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. 

It was further learnt that traders who refused to pay were assaulted and beaten and their good were sized, scattered as well as seizing their goods and mobile phones.

Speaking with newsmen, the chairman  of the shopping complex in Watt Market Ike Bassey Bassey said 

"We have suffered so much in this shopping complex, based on the revenue and illegal tickets they are collecting from us. We met with the chairman of council to help us, we complained to her, and she made it clear that she was going to reduce the taxes.

"We pay N750 every day but she promised to bring it down to N420. After 2 days, we met her again to lay the complaint since no action was taken, she told us that particular persons collect the money. She said she sat with them and they insisted that they can't bring down the money, we ask her for directives on what to do, and she said any action we want to take we can take we told her we were going to stage a protest, she said we are free to take up the action.

"She said we are free to do it, that she will support whatever decision we take. But surprisingly to me, we received a call, from Atakapa Police station, we went to the police station, and we saw former councillors, and serving councillors.

" We pleaded that the daily ticket fees of N750 are too high and that they should please reduce the money, suddenly  I received  a letter under duress coming from Esther Bassey, the chairman of council, which I refused to sign."

"We could not keep our goods for 9 good days, there is no shade here, we were asked by the chairman of council to pay 5,000 as reopening fees. 

"They came with a form and said for us to sell, we must pay 5,000  naira as fees before reopening.

" Those who refused or wanted to express their views were beaten, and harassed, we use to pay 25,000 but now we pay 30,000 as our annual fees".

Speaking with some of the victims harassed and beaten, a business owner identified as Glory Nathaniel Lawrence said

" Today I was sampling my Market, the tickets man came, and ordered that I pay my reopening dues or I should fold my market, I tried to explain that my madam is not around, he immediately threw my clothes to the main road.

" Some people started begging, I was slapped, my phone was taken from me my table, just now that they brought this table, they didn't allow me to explain myself they threw my clothes, all my clothes my market clothes spoil under the rain".

 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.