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Abuja: A city under siege of hawkers, beggars, and corrupt law enforcers.

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Gbenga Odunsi went around the Capital City to spotlight the activities of hawkers and beggars and how corrupt officials are exploiting the situation in less than moral ways.

Many petty street traders and beggars have continued invading major bus stops, interjections, road corridors and pedestrian bridges or over-head bridges located within the heart of Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

Residents of Abuja have raised alarm over the influx of beggars and hawkers into the Federal Capital Territory. They expressed concern that the influx of beggars and hawkers into Nigeria’s capital could be a security threat if not checked.

According to reports, several attempts at enforcing the ban on street hawking and begging within the federal capital seemed not to be yielding the desired result, as it is not uncommon to be accosted by many street traders and beggars roaming the city, investigations revealed.

Though the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) is saddled with the responsibility of getting rid of hawkers, beggars and lunatics in the city, it is safe to say the board has gone to sleep.

“Hawking and begging for alms on major streets in Abuja is now a regular sight. Far from the intention of the city’s master-plan, hawking is carried out in places where it has earlier been prohibited,’’ an angry resident says.

Investigation further reveals that the old parade ground in Garki Area 10, Banex junction, Lugbe Federal Housing, War College, Area 1, Area 3 axis of the city centre, boast growing population of hawkers taking over the city.

The AEPB in collaboration with the security agencies carried out major raids on some street hawkers operating around Banex Plaza and some streets in Wuse 2, as well as other environs of Abuja.

AEBP van.

The exercise, which was part of the Board’s monthly sanitation programme, initiated as part of its efforts towards promoting a sustainable environment and city management, specifically targeted at ridding the FCT of illegal traders and food vendors operating in restricted areas in the city.

To escape arrest by the AEBP task force, many of the petty street traders took to their heels as if it was a rat race competition they were involved in. While some abandoned their wares and ran, wishing they had wings to fly, a few looked for places to hide their wares before running for cover.

However, to hawkers like Abdullahi who came from Kogi state, hawking became the last resort after he came to Abuja where he thought connections and opportunities abound. He said that hawking at night is safer than in the day.

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Another hawker who does not want his name in print said he came to Abuja, because of the hardship he was passing through in his state, feeding his wife and children was a tug of war. He however noted that the only problem in achieving his plan is the AEPB task force who are very brutal when discharging their duties.

Another hawker, Nabilah, selling donut and eggroll along the street of Area 11, who expressed her anger and frustration over her predicament, decried that the constant pressures being exerted on her and others by the Board is too much to bear, as they keep recording huge loss in their business.

“Environmental people usually mount pressure on us, as if people working in the organization don’t have human sympathy for the poor, just trying to cater for themselves.

“They are very wicked, as they destroy people’s items that some of them bought on credit; so, when we see the task force na so I run; but what do they want us to do when we have to eat,” she said.

Taking time to interview some beggars in the FCT, findings revealed that begging for alms is the main source of livelihood for most of the beggars. Some beggars hibernate under the pretense of economic hardship, while some simply see it as a way of life.

Both local and corporate beggars exist in the FCT. Corporate beggars are unemployed graduates who came to Abuja to find their feet, but are yet to gain any meaningful employment. These set of people resort to begging to keep body and soul together. They can be easily spotted carrying transparent file, and wearing suit and tie.

According to a local beggar, who gave his name as Ibrahim, he left his home state of Katsina seven years ago, to Abuja to beg as source of income when he could not lay hands on any profitable business to sustain him and his family of two wives and nine children.

Another beggar said was invited by his friend who had been in the business for a while to come over and stop suffering working on the farms.

More Petty traders narrate their experience, this time horrific

Gbenga, in a chat with some hawkers who sell fruits along federal secretariat said they are being ‘harassed’ daily by the authorities.

One of them identified as Gloria who is a widow while explaining in tears said that the operation of the AEPB officials is really affecting her business which is the only source of her livelihood.

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“The government is not pitying us and we are the ones that voted them in. I am a widow and this is the only thing I am using to send my children to school and to feed them.  My first son is a graduate but he has never gotten a job all because of this bad economy that we are facing.

“This people (AEPB) are really disturbing us, if I use all the money I make in a day to bribe, what will I use to continue the business. Government should please have mercy on us. This suffering is too much.’’

Also, Rose who seems to be educated complained: “How do they want us to quit our source of livelihood when they haven’t provided alternatives for us?

“The government is insensitive and officials of AEPB have continued to add to the pain; they extort from us, seize our wares when we fail to pay them and most times physically harass us. You can imagine me running with my tray of banana every now and then.”

The story is not also different with the experience of Audu a teenager who hawks along Asokoro.

He told the journalist in pidgin English that AEBP officials who claim to be Abuja task force come with their vehicle and men almost 3 to 5 times daily to extort them.

Audu who sells children writing toys explained that he was almost knocked down by a moving car while being chased by AEPB officials.

AEPB reacts…

When contacted, the AEPB management, the spokesperson Muktar Ibrahim in an exclusive interview said that hawkers giving bribes to any person claiming to be an official of the agency to evade justice is also crime but he noted that this does not legitimize hawking in Abuja as it is still illegal.

Muktar noted that the agency ‘frowns’ against any illegal act by any official that can tarnish the image of the organisation.

“This people that made the allegation they are not denying the fact that they have committed an offence because as everybody knows hawking on the street of Abuja is not permitted. So, we are all under the law but whoever gives and he who takes bribe have committed offences.

The traders and the person they gave the money to, they have all broken the law and they should be made to face the full wrath of the law.

‘’Haven said that, the people that have come to complain, they don’t have any moral right to make this complaint because they are partners with the ‘criminals’ that take money from them. Abuja Environmental Protection Board does not condole criminalities. We do not send out criminals to the street to extort money from whoever.

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‘’But as we have in the world, there will always be bad eggs. If the claims by the traders are truthful, it will represent the act of the bad eggs which we have in Abuja Environmental Protection Board agency. If we can unmask them as we have done in some occasions, we will make them to face the full wrath of law after kicking them out from the organization.

A roadside seller who was almost knocked down by a car.

‘’Everybody needs to be aware of the activities of imposters, we have imposters that act as members of AEPB and that is why I advise the public that there if there is doubt about the conduct of any person who claims to be a staff of AEPB, they should call our numbers and complain. we will not protect any bribe taker…’’

How to rid the city of the menace?

A public affairs analyst, Muftau Salihu has this advice to the authorities on how to curb the menace

AEBP not only needs to double its raids on the perpetrators, but to equally adopt new measures, to achieve the desired goal.  Since the hawkers are adamant to leave the streets, the raiding should be more often, more anti-hawking posters should be placed along the streets, boldly in the three major languages in Nigeria. This would enable the beggars and hawkers to understand the message very clearly, which before now, they seemed not to be doing.

“In addition, trade unions in the FCT should have a workshop for the hawkers telling them the dangers that comes with street hawking, as this will go way to reduce the menace. Beggars should be given vocational skills, and thereafter equipped and made to return to their various states.”

 

By Gbenga Odunsi, Abuja.

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‘Take pre-emptive steps to secure Oyo State’, Akande advises Makinde

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Oyo state governor, Engr. Seyi Makinde, has been urged to take immediate and decisive measures to secure lives and property in the state.

Professor Adeolu Akande, the Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, made the plea on Monday, in the wake of the security measures announced by Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State.

The Ondo State Government had on Monday given a 7-day ultimatum to illegal occupants of forest reserves in the state to vacate their hideout. The government also announced many other stringent steps to secure the state from incorrigible elements.

Professor Akande noted the extreme measures would make Ondo State uncomfortable for the criminals, who would seek a new haven and continue to wreak havoc.

“It is logical to expect that the displacement of these criminal elements from Ondo State will lead them to migrate to comfortable zones to continue their nefarious activities. This is the risk Oyo State faces if it fails to take stern measures to keep such elements away from the state.

“We should not be unmindful of claims by the Chairman of the  Amotekun corps in Oyo State that the forest reserves in the Oke Ogun area have become a haven for criminals from neighbouring countries.

“It is therefore of great urgency that Governor Makinde announces measures to ensure that Oyo State does not become a natural comfort zone for criminal elements expelled from neighbouring states.

The APC Chieftain further noted that the rising crime wave in the state and across the country calls for collective action from all citizens.

“This is no time to trade culpability. The state is facing a serious security challenge, and all of us must join hands with the governor to salvage the situation. Criminals do not distinguish between political parties when they commit a crime. They do not choose their victims according to their political affiliation. All hands must be on deck to return our dear state to a secure and peaceful one”, the NCC boss submitted.

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NDDC: Akpabio threatens legal action over fake news of $5m bribe to Malami to secure sole administrator

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Senator Godswill Akpabio, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, has denied the news making the rounds in some media outfits that he offered a bribe of $5 million to the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General, Abubakar Malami, to secure the appointment of a sole administrator for the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

Also, the former governor of Akwa Ibom State has threatened legal action against the purveyors of the news inorder to clear his name and that of the Attorney General from the malicious publication.

The position of the Minister was contained in a statement signed by his media aide, Anietie Ekong, and made available to newsmen.

The statement read, “the attention of the Honourable Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio has been drawn to a piece of fake news which claimed that Senator Akpabio paid $5 million bribe to the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami and others to secure the appointment of a Sole Administrator for the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

“We wish to state categorically that  this is a piece of malicious concoction manufactured from the pit of hell by mischief -makers. It is a figment of the imagination of the author of the fake news. Senator Akpabio denies the story in its entirety. The authors of the fake news should be ready to back up their claim or face the full wrath of the law.

“The story is a desperate attempt by some unscrupulous bloggers to impugn the integrity of the Honourable Minister of Niger Delta Affairs and the Honourable Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami as the claim is not only spurious but utterly ridiculous.

“The fact is that in a suit number ABJ/CS/617/2020 filed by a Civil Society Organization, Forum for Accountability and Good Governance, at a Federal High Court in Abuja, Justice Ahmed Mohammed had granted an order restraining the Interim Management Committee of the NDDC from performing the functions of the board and accessing the Commission’s offices and files.

“The Order clearly listed the Managing Director Professor Kemebradikumo Pondei, Acting Executive Director of Projects Dr Cairo Ojougboh, Mrs Caroline Nagboh and Cecilia Akintomide as those restrained. The Order also asked that “the most senior civil servant or administrator in the Commission be appointed” to take charge of the Commission.

“It was based on this order that President Muhammadu Buhari approved the elevation of the Acting Executive Director of Finance and Administration, Mr Effiong Akwa, being the most Senior Administrator to take over the headship of the NDDC as an Interim Administrator pending the completion of the Forensic Audit Exercise.

“It is therefore absurd for anyone to even imagine that the Honourable Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio would bribe the Attorney General before an Order of the Court is complied with as the purveyors of the fake news have stated. The general public should discountenance this piece of trash.

‘It is obvious that some  persons who are scared of the ongoing forensic audit of the NDDC as ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari are working tirelessly to scuttle the exercise by blackmailing the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio.  Their modus operandi is to churn out fake news in a bid to stop Senator Akpabio from sanitizing the NDDC. Otherwise, how can a responsible news website make such a grievous allegation without any shred of evidence to back up its claim.

“However, we wish to state that no amount of sponsored fake news and blackmail would deter Senator Akpabio from doing the right thing as directed by Mr. President. The Minister has the overwhelming support of the impoverished masses of the Niger Delta who have borne the brunt of underdevelopment of the region over the years”, it concluded.

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Alaafin of Oyo, encyclopedia of Yoruba culture and tradition – Tegbe

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A chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Oyo state, Engr. Olasunkanmi Tegbe has described the Alaafin of Oyo, His Imperial Majesty, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III as an encyclopedia of the culture and traditions of the entire Yoruba race.

Congratulating the custodian of culture on his 50th coronation anniversary, Tegbe said Oba Adeyemi has displayed uncommon wisdom and emotional intelligence in administering his domain, fostering peace and sustainable development.

In a statement signed on Thursday and made available to Mega Icon Magazine, the APC chieftain added that the Alaafin has not only “sustained our heritage and identity as a people”, but also used his throne to build bridges of friendship and harmony in the state, across Yoruba Land and beyond.

“I felicitate with His Imperial Majesty, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III on the 50th Anniversary of his ascension to the throne.

“In half a century, Kábíyèsí has displayed uncommon wisdom and emotional intelligence in administering his domain, fostering peace and sustainable development.

“Iku Baba Yeye has sustained our heritage and identity as a people. He is best described as an encyclopedia of the culture and traditions of the entire Yoruba race.

“Our Father has used his throne to build bridges of friendship and harmony in the state, across Yoruba Land and beyond.

“I remain proud of his progressive ideals, particularly the legacy of peace and harmony which Yorubas are known for.

“I pray that Kabiyesi spends many more years in good health”, the statement read.

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