- Government, hawkers set to clash over directive on street trading
Governor Umo Eno of Akwa Ibom State has kept his supporters from the People’s Democratic Party and indeed from other political parties gazing about the names of commissioners who are likely to make the list to be sent to the state House of Assembly for confirmation.
Eno, who was inaugurated on May 29 having been declared winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission on the ticket of the PDP following the March 18 governorship elections, has announced the appointment of personal aides but has yet to send the names of the likely commissioners to the state assembly.
Last week, he approved the appointment of additional media aides and created a special office of website and multimedia streaming where an aide to former Governor Udom Emmanuel was appointed as Senior Special Assistant and Frank Ekpenyong as the Senior Special Assistant on Information and Communication Technology and Digital Services.
These were in addition to other media aides including his Chief Press Secretary, Senior Special Assistant on Media, Senior Special Assistant on Research and Documentation, among others that had earlier been appointed.
So far, Eno has appointed at least 10 personal aides and one economic adviser, a clear departure from the previous administration which did not have a portfolio for an economic adviser, perhaps relying solely on the Ministry of Economic Development for matters of the state’s economy.
Though the outgone administration had reportedly requested from the incoming governor to work with the former members of the state executive council by reappointing many of them, with only a member opting out of the arrangement, the need for the appointment of new commissioners became urgent and pressing as the governor has recently announced the award of road contractors in Uyo, the state capital.
Accordingly, he announced the construction of Ndiya Street, internal roads, drainages and installation of solar-powered electricity in Akpan Andem market in Uyo, the state capital. He said the decision to construct economically viable streets across the state was a “symbolic proof of his high regards for entrepreneurs and small businesses.”
It is against this backdrop that many of his supporters across party lines do not have any clue as to who are those likely to be members of the state executive council.
Umo Eno, was himself a member of the state executive council until his decision to contest the governorship election.
According to them, the state appears to be operating without openness and transparency, adding that knowing those to be so appointed would be a morale booster to the administration.
“We would know the direction of the government,” one of the supporters said.
Though some of the commissioners are said to be working behind the scene having been assured by the governor that their names would make the list, it does not in any way according to observers prevent the governor from including their names among those to be sent to the state assembly.
For instance, one of the former commissioners publicly announced on his social media platforms that he represented Governor Umo Eno at an event in Uyo recently.
This may be a pointer that the governor may not be in a hurry to have members of the state executive council inaugurated since many of the former members are said to be working behind the scene, throwing their support behind the governor.
How long his supporters will continue to wait for the appointment of commissioners and the inauguration of the state executive council to direct the affairs of the state can only be imagined according to observers.
Meanwhile, the Akwa Ibom State government and the ubiquitous hawkers in Uyo, the state capital are set to clash over the directive by the former that illegal traders should vaccinate all streets within one month.
The state government appears to be unable to check the activities of street traders as they have taken over all the available spaces within Uyo metropolis including the popular Ibom Plaza which was created as a relaxation spot.
Enobong Uwah, Secretary to the State Government, in a statement made available to journalists in Uyo, said, the “activities of the illegal roadside traders who carry out commercial activities along major roads, streets, junctions, pedestrian walkways and access road leading to markets around the Uyo metropolis are responsible for creation of traffic bottlenecks and impediment to free flow of traffic.’’
A former chairman of Uyo Capital City Development Authority, who until his appointment as the Secretary to the State Government was responsible for the development of the capital city including regulating the activities of street vendors, stated that their activities were not acceptable to the state government, adding that it has been left with no option that to protect the larger majority of road users who are daily slowed down by activities of the illegal street traders.
Uwah added that the illegal street traders also litter the surrounding of the markets with refuse and pose serious challenges leading to events of avoidable accidents, loss of lives and other valuables, and constitute a serious obstacle for road users.
He said that the state government would no longer condone the excesses of the unauthorised display of wares by illegal traders on our roads, thereby creating artificial bottlenecks and has therefore, decided that within one month, from the state of this markets, all activities involving buying and selling are taken off the roads and into the markets designed for such activities.
“Government has also directed the relevant security agencies and market leaders to collaborate and deal decisively with erring street traders as sanity must be returned to our streets and culprits brought to book,’’ the statement added.
It noted that “given the objective of government in continuously protecting our investment on road infrastructure and sustaining our unbroken record as the cleanest city in Nigeria, government is however optimistic that the various market unions and other stakeholders would cooperate with government in curbing the menace of street trading around the markets within the metropolis.”
But the traders under the Akwa Ibom Traders Association led by its president Idoreyin Raphael who highlighted the dangers of street trading which he said included accidents, loss of lives and environmental degradation, urged members to relocate in line with the state government’s directive.
But investigation showed that more than two weeks after the directive was given, the traders are in no way showing any readiness to vacate the streets, with the situation being business as usual.
Around the major streets including Etuk Street which is along Aka road close to the city centre, traders were still seen displaying their wares on the centre of the road competing for space with mini buses.
One of the traders, Edem Archibong said, he has nowhere to relocate to, adding that the state government should have built more stalls to accommodate the street traders.
According to him, with the high level of unemployment and cost of food items, it is going to be “a tug of war” to force them to abandon their small businesses.
Archibong who sells fresh fish along Aka road said that the state government should also blame civil servants from patronising street traders, adding that when most of them close from work, they prefer to shop around the streets and on the roads instead of getting to market stalls.
“I don’t have anywhere else to go to generate income to feed my family, my children who are university graduates could not find any job, the latest recruitment by the state government into the civil service was done secretly,” he said.