By Stanley Onyekwere
Some traders at Kaura Modern market, Duboyi , in Gudu District of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), yesterday staged a protest against the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB), for allegedly enforcing multiple service charges on them.
They accused the Board of practices that they said contravenes the transformation agenda of the President Goodluck Jonathan Administration.
According to the traders, the AEPB has offered itself as an available tool to the market management, Berwick Nigeria Limited, to put into effect multiple service charges against the traders, thereby enslaving them.
The protesters carried placards with the inscriptions: ‘Goodluck help stop corruption’; ‘Stop intimidating traders with mobile court’; “stop poor management ‘ we pay service charges to Berwick Nigh Ltd not AEPB”, and amongst others.
The traders, who protested round the market, stopped their protest at the venue of the mobile court within the market, where a Senior Magistrate 2, of Wuse Zone 2 Magistrates’, Musa Abdulrazaque Eneye, had arrived to commence trial of offenders among them.
But, at the sight of the protesters, some AEPB officials took to their heels, and the magistrate was whisked away in a Peugeot Expert with registration number CT 134 –C28, therefore aborting the trial session of the controversial charges.
Chairman, Kaura Modern Market Traders Association, Mr. Patrick Akudolu, said their protest was to demand clarification from the AEPB and managers of the market, on why they should be subjected to multiple charges for the same service already charged on their rental and other sundry charges.
Akudolu said they had written a letter to the AEPB to explain the rationale for allowing itself to tool in the hands of the management of the market to compel traders for payment of charges the Board’s response was sealing of shops and trial of offenders.
In the letter dated July 17, 2014 with the heading: “Does Your Board Now collect Service Charges in Kaura Modern Market, Duboyi Abuja, and received on July 18, requested for definite clarification on the issues raised.
It reads in parts: “We represent the traders of the above named Market, some of whom your Board took to Mobile court for failure to pay service charge.
“If the meaning of the summon is that we now pay our service charge to your Board, please let us know so, and we will gladly do that or if your Board now collects Waste disposal charge directly, please let us know, we shall be willing to comply with you”, the letter enquired.
Responding to the development, the Business Development Manager of Berwick Nigeria Limited, Sir, Uche Ukaigwe, said the management of the market was only using the AEPB to enforce the legal payment of service charges, which the traders defaulted in paying as they are not an enforcement agency.
However, when contacted on phone, the AEPB’s Head of information, Mr. Joe Ukairo, said the Board as a statutory agency of government does not collect cash through intermediaries, as its charges are paid directly into government accounts.
He however noted the demonstration could be as a result of a mix up somewhere, which can be settled, saying there is a there is room for dialogue, where all the issues would be sought amicably.