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Threat to shut down Mile III Market

Posted by The Port Harcourt Telegraph on 2005/04/28 | Views: 314 |

Threat to shut down Mile III Market

Mayor of Port Harcourt, Chief Azubuike Nmerukini has declared that there is no going back on the decision to increase rates payable by traders who are operating at the Mile III Market.

* We'll not succumb~ Mayor of Port Harcourt

Mayor of Port Harcourt, Chief Azubuike Nmerukini has declared that there is no going back on the decision to increase rates payable by traders who are operating at the Mile III Market.

The council's reaction is coming against the background of attempts by the market association whose leader unilaterally locked the market, to pick holes in the new stallage fees just released, claiming they were either too exorbitant or out of reach.

The mayor who spoke exclusively to The Port Harcourt Telegraph said nobody for whatever reason had the right to close any market in Port Harcourt.
Nmerukini said he had acted in the overall interest of both the patronizing public and the traders, especially those selling perishables in re-opening the market shut down without any meaningful reason.

He noted that security personnel posted to the market were there to protect government property, stressing there has been no report of harassment on their part.
The may revealed that the decision to marginally increase the rates was taken after due consultations with a cross section of stakeholders which included traders and their representatives.

He alleged there were some persons claiming to be officials who had appropriated council stalls and subletted them in order to make exorbitant profit, adding they were the ones crying out loud over a decision to peg stallage fees at N4000 per annum for the highest category of stalls.

In the last few days, a controversy has been sparked off by a decision of the Port Harcourt City Local Government to increase market stall fees. The reactions that greeted the increase came as a surprise. Some one masquerading as the leader of traders simply locked out traders and potential buyers alike, claiming a protest was on. The Telegraph has been on the trail of the story.

Then the opportunity presented itself. We were able to reach Chief Azubuike Nmerukini, current Mayor of Port Harcourt. We asked to know what his side of the story is, what he was going to do with startling revelations suggesting sharp practices exist in the market place in terms of stalls' ownership.
Nmerukini was forth coming. He took time to explain the rationale behind the introduction of the new rates, said he wasn't going to allow any one to shut down any of the city's markets and urged both traders and the public disregard the tantrums of the discredited trader's association. This is how the interview went:
Telegraph: The controversy is that your council has raised stallage fees and according to those who are complaining, it is way out of their reach. And so, Mr. Chairman, what is your side of the story?

Nmerukini: Thank you very much. You can agree that the problem that we have in this part of the world is that government things, government properties and anything concerning government means nobody owns its. So since nobody owns it, it is not important, it is not serious.

Otherwise, what is the argument? We own the stalls in the market and the stalls that we have in the market is divided into three categories. We have what we call lock-up stalls (that is the highest level in terms of stalls). We have what we call the open lock up stall (these belong to the middle category), and we have what we call attachments and this is the third category.
It is in this part of the world that people don't pay anything to the council. They go, among themselves, buy sheds, which is even contrary to the council's rules and regulations.

When you look at it, how much are they paying in the first place? We asked them for the highest stall in Port Harcourt to pay us N340 per month, not up to N500. For the middle level stalls, we asked them to pay N200 to be precise.

Rather than go into long mathematical calculations, we asked them to give us N4000 for one year, not one month but for a whole year. And these stalls for which the council merely asked for N4000 per annum are being rented among themselves for N36,000, for N50, 000. In fact, the biggest of the stalls are being rented by traders who hijacked stalls to other traders for N5,000 in one month. All we are asking for is N4000 in one year.

The medium sized stall that they rent for between N2000 and N3000 per month, all we are asking them to pay us is N2000 for one year. For the least, the attachments, we say pay us N1000 for one year.

I don't see how it is exorbitant given the fact that the figures we have tendered are what they pay to themselves, meaning they still have a huge profit margin at the end.

We know how much stalls go for in Aba. We know how much stalls go for in Onitsha and other neighbouring towns. When the issue is Port Harcourt, people get up to fight. It is not amusing. It is painful but we won't be deterred in our determination to serve, to offer constructive leadership.

With the little that we will collect, we will maintain the infrastructure at the market. That is our statutory duty and we are under pressure to explore sources of generating internal revenue.

With regard to the markets that we control, we have assured we would take care of things like public conveniences which are not in use in the market at the moment .

Telegraph: How did you feel when you heard that the market has been locked?
Nmerukini: As a government we felt and still feel that nobody has a right to lock up public property and put the key in his pocket and walk away. That is why when we got the news we acted and opened the market.

You could see relief and joy. Joy among traders who sell perishable goods and relief among market users.

Our decision not to recognize the market's leadership and the umbrella body is based on the fact that their tenure is up and the fact that they are not registered with us.

Under the law, they ought to be registered. This is unfortunately not the case at the moment. And as a responsible government, we are going to insist that people play according to the rules.

Telegraph: From the ongoing, it is almost certain that council rules and regulations, with reference to stall ownership have been compromised by some persons. What are you going to do about that?

Nmerukini: In the past everything has been zig zag. Take the collection of revenue.. They have insisted they would come in and collect, that they would help us in the process of collection. But this time we changed the method because we want to have records of what we have there.

We have said that we intend to embark on an audit of our stalls. We have said that we would like to know who owns what.

No responsible government can sit by and watch things done any how. To answer your question, we would take a look at the issue, to ensure that we have a fair system, and a system that emphasizes justice to all.
Telegraph: What words of advice or encouragement do you have for the people of Port Harcourt?

Nmerukini: We want to assure them of our resolve to provide better services. We urge them to go about their businesses lawfully and we assure that we would guarantee a conducive environment for all.

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Comments (23)

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robloxian(Bangor, Maine, US)says...

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