Onitsha, the commercial nerve-centre of Anambra State and the South-East still brims with commercial activities as traders engage in unfettered enterprise. National Light investigative team found unsubstantiable insecurity in the business climate but for zestful touting in motor parks. CHRIS AGHANYA and CHIKE IFEDI report:
BUSINESS activities in Onitsha, the commercial nerve-centre of Anambra State thrives unfettered depicting the hustling and bustling of the commercial life of the town.
At the perishable market, popularly called “Ogbo Tomato” close to the Onitsha Military Cantonment, it wore its old self as business went on swiftly. Trailer loads of tomatoes, onions and other perishable commodities arrived the market yesterday and traders and buyers were seen doing brisk businesses.
A tomatoes dealer, Mrs Nkechi Ihionu, who spoke to our reporter said the business climate in the market was safe and that business was going on smoothly.
“We are doing our business here safely and we don’t have touts in this market. We only pay our market dues as we all agreed, and task force people or any other people collecting money don’t come here. We know the market officials.”
Another trader in the market- a northerner, Ismaila Kabiru, told our reporter that, “we are safe here. The market is safe. Nobody is troubling us in this market”. No official of the market could be reached for comment.
From the Ogbo Tomatoes stretch to Upper Iweka, the area was serene and calm as there was no traffic gridlock on the road and also, no state or self-imposed security operatives or task forces could be sighted.
At the MCC Junction, around new Cemetery Road, keke operators were orderly lined up and loading their passengers. The axis was very calm as touts or taskforce groups were not sighted within the vicinity.
The same scenario obtained around the Toronto Hospital, where mostly corporate transporters operate their businesses.
The only spots where National Light found accounts of heightened activity of touts such as harassing and extortion of various sums of monies from transporters on goods are the markets around Upper Iweka and Ogbo Ogwu axis.
A trader, Anthony Isiokwe, dealing in second hand wears told these reporters that the touts do not harass customers and passerby, but once they sight a bus carrying goods, they rush to it and force the driver to settle them.
He said, “These people are nightmare to buses carrying goods. Sometimes, they even harass and extort money from individuals and barrow pushers carrying goods they bought from the market”.
“Government should do something about this touts, they are giving bad name to this Upper Iweka Market, and they do same at the other side where buses are loading”.
Another trader in the market, Josephine Onyekwe said, “maybe because of the governor’s recent broadcast, you have not seen them this afternoon, but if you stay till around five or six o’clock, you will see what we are saying about these touts, but they don’t harass passersby maybe because they don’t know who is who”.
“The government should do something about this people here before they even begin to rob us traders”.
The business environment of Nkpor, near Onitsha was calm as transporters, commuters and traders ply their business without molestation. State security operatives were seen nowhere from the popular Nkpor Junction down to Onitsha, but commercial activities were bubbling, while transporters, commuters and passerby moved freely and about their daily activities.
A female trader at the Nkpor Junction, who gave her name as Miss Roseline Nweke but declined being captured, told our reporter that the area was safe without any form of harassment by touts and criminal elements.
According to her, ‘We have not been witnessing any harassment here. We are freely doing our business and people are patronising us. You can see everybody moving freely.
Pressed further on why there is absence of policemen in and around Nkpor Junction, she said, ‘They all ran away during the #EndSARS protests and since then, they have not come back. Even without their presence, this area is very safe as you can see everybody going about their business freely.
From the Nkpor Junction, stretched to All Hallows Seminary, Onitsha, National Light only noticed the presence of members of the special task force team of the state Ministry of Transport on Traffic Control.
Mr. Ifeanyi Okechukwu, a member of the team told our reporter that since their presence in the area, they have not witnessed any form of molestation of transporters, commuters and passerby by any person or group and had not witnessed any criminal activity in the area.
According to him, ‘Our duty here is to ensure orderly movement of vehicles, but I must tell you, we have not witnessed any criminal activity since our stay here. People are going about their daily activities freely, and commercial life of Nkpor is going on smoothly.
For several hours, our reporter hovered around the stretch of road between Nkpor Junction and All Hallows Seminary, Onitsha, it was noticed that drivers or their conductors would stop at certain points, move towards a group of three to four young boys and part with some money. This reporter’s inquiry showed that the boys were transport union toll collectors who choose not to be identified by state security operatives except the bus or keke operators who are their members.
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