The Chairman of the Abia State Task Force on Environment and Allied Matters, Capt. Awa Udonsi Agwu (rtd) has charged street traders in Aba, Umuahia and other cities in the State to leave the roads and go back to their shops at government designated markets.
Addressing a group of traders at the end of a routine inspection in Aba, the commercial hub of the state on Wednesday, Agwu lamented the attitude of traders who left their shops at government approved markets to display their wares on the road without considering the attendant risks to their lives and businesses as well as its effects on the environment.
“Most of these traders that displayed their wares on the road have shops at government designated markets but have refused to stay there. Go to Orie Ohabiam, Shopping Center, Ariaria International market, among others, shops are lying empty. They come to the main road for quicker sells and now use their shops as a packing store. They should go back to their shops and leave the main road.
“Trading along the road constitutes environmental nuisance and also exposes them to greater danger. Cars can fail break and ram into them. Many of them use their wares to obstruct free flow of traffic. Others display theirs on drainages, using their improvised stands to block passage of water in the drainages.”
He further said that state government cannot fold its arms to watch her citizens expose themselves to dangers that could be prevented when they go back to their abandoned shops in respective markets.
Reacting to the allegation that his team was targeting at some group of persons, Capt Agwu said; “we are not targeting or witch-hunting any group as was widely rumored, but acting on the ambit of the act on which the task force was established.What we are doing is to open up spaces to ease off traffic on the roads to enable people walk freely and for private car owners to use the open spaces to park their cars while they are in Aba to do their shopping, instead of parking them along the roads and cause traffic gridlocks or get damaged by other road users because the car was parked along the road.
“We did not come to destroy peoples’ wares. Basically we are cleaning up the roads, opening spaces, sanitary lanes and also dismantling illegal structures causing obstructions and free flow of vehicular movements in Aba. We shall replicate what we are doing in Aba today in Umuahia and other major towns in the State. The essence of this exercise is to restore the original beauty of Aba and other towns and not to deny anyone his or her source of livelihood,” Agwu stated.
One of the roadside traders at Park road by Mosque, James Okonkwo attributed street trading and display of goods on roads to lack of finances to pay for shops at the government designated markets as some of them were yet to find their feet in their respective businesses after years of apprentice.
Okonkwo said he was willing to leave the road for the approved markets if Abia State government makes the prices of shop affordable for starters like him.
“I don’t know about others. I am ready to go to wherever the state government will want us to go to. The problem is that, I just finished my apprenticeship and doesn’t have enough capital to start business, pay for house rent and a shop at the same time. Shops in the market are very costly for beginners like me.
“If government can see a way of subsidizing the prices of shops and asking us to pay on installment, why would I want to risk my life doing business on the road when you know cars can enter your shop one day and kill everyone.”