FCT Traders Lament Rip-off By AEPB Officials

FCT Traders Lament Rip-off By AEPB Officials
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Traders, in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, are groaning over how uniformed Abuja Environmental Protection Board, AEPB, officials rip them off their hard earned money. It is believed  that the board was established to secure a qualitative environment adequate for the health and wellbeing of residents but it  continues to  leverage on petty traders with ease,  JOEL AJAYI reports:

Increasingly, petty traders in the heart of the FCT are at the mercy of AEPB officials who in the line of duty have become a thorn in the flesh of these hapless segment of the FCT.

They appear to have lost steam in their assignment and could be likened to wolves in the midst of sheep, tormenting them on a daily basis.

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AljazirahNigeria reliably gathered that AEPB officials are no longer a threat to traders, having soiled their hands by extorting the traders from  their profit, courtesy of the uniform members among them.

It is very difficult for you, to see traders taking to their heels anymore on sighting AEPB officials unlike before where it was akin to an Olympic race for the traders who would go to any extent to flee from the arrest and the risk of their product being confiscated.

The traders such as food vendors, roasted yam sellers, herb hawkers popularly known as (Agbo sellers) Barbecue sellers (Mai Suya) amongst others who provide some sort services at FCT mostly groaned bitterly over the unofficial extortion from AEPB officials who on a daily basis rip  them off their profit.

Unfortunately, traders that cooperate with them are allowed to freely do their business while those who refuse to dance to their tune will have themselves to blame.

AljazirahNigeria learnt that the money is collected on a daily basis by uniformed AEPB officials. Two officials often dressed in mufti as disguise to perpetrate the unspeakable act, even in the current harsh COVID-19 era which is taking a toll on almost every sphere of life.

These officials, in their own sneaky ways are now tagged by many traders  as “daily tax collectors” and have turned the majority of the traders in FCT to the legendary ATM machines.

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It was also gathered that Officials have developed an elaborate scheme involving some willing accomplices in the security agencies to squeeze traders of money on a daily basis for upward remittances to senior officials on the board.

To make the situation worse, some spot all manner of unofficial dresses, both men and women including overzealous touts working (collecting money) from traders.

Many traders who spoke with AljazirahNigeria accused officials of AEPB of being insensitive to the plight of the affected traders. While many traders are finding it extremely difficult to make a living because of the effect of the Coronavirus Pandemic, the situation is further worsened by these extortionist tendencies.

It was an amazing experience when our Reporter encountered a woman herb seller at Area 11 in the FCT. The woman identified as Mama Bashirat, was soon approached by a man and woman came and asked her: How far? You did not pay yesterday. The seller replied no, I paid. Yesterday was the ‘turn of Oga at the top’. The woman thereby brought out N200 and handed it over to them.  They went straight to another victim, an ‘Okpa’ seller. On getting there the woman smiled and paid N200 like the herb seller.

This disgusting distortion caught the attention of our reporter, who therefore asked the seller what the money was meant for. What do they do for you that warrant the payment? The herb seller replied: “My brother, they are task force AEPB officials that is how we pay every day, if you don’t pay they will report to their men in the uniform to come and pick you and take you to the mobile court. But as I paid now, I am free, those are the people who eaten into our meagre profit.

“Don’t be amazed, we even, pay oga, and their boss own is once in a week and their money is N500 so, what do we do? We have to pay if we want to remain in the business. We are not making much profit, but my family will eat, it’s just a means of survival.”

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Narrating her ordeal, ‘Mama Ernest’ ,  a roasted yam seller in central Area of the FCT, expressed: “I am not afraid of task force anymore, they are no longer AEPB, their new name is daily collector, my fear and my worries are that I am no longer making profits. If I sell my yam the whole profit goes to the pocket of AEPB.”

Our reporter who went for a meal at Mama Ernest shop where she roasts yam observed some strange and crafty movement from one of the officials who happened to be a regular official, a daily collector came to the shop and was ranting, saying; are you ready to comply today or another way round? Then the woman brought out N500 and handed it over to him and he left to another nearly shop.

When she was asked what prompted such action, the woman replied: “he is AEPB official see their vehicles on the other side of the road waiting for him,  their boss is inside the car, that is how we pay them on a daily basis and we don’t have an option.

“I no longer make a profit. I am in pains; I cannot continue to live like refugees in my own country.” She groaned.

A ‘Suya seller’ who operates in Zone 6 of the FCT  narrated how much he loses up to these men. He said they keep coming each week despite huge money to these guys.

“I lost close to N10, 000 monthly to these men, when they forcibly seize all the meat because I did not pay for two days due to the low market.”

Also, explaining his predicament, Aminu, a 25-year man from Kano currently selling fruits on Zone 3  expressed: “For me to be selling fruit here, I must settle the AEPB officials, both those on errand and their ‘Ogas’. And if I refuse to succumb to their demand, they will carry my products and allow it to go bad.

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“So, having known that we have no choice than to dance to their tune, all the profit that we supposed to make is being given to AEPB officials week in, week out.” He said.

Similarly, Mrs.Nkechi Edward, a food vendor said, “None of this AEPB staff show mercy at all, when they come like this and you don’t have money to give them, they will carry your items away, most times they eat them. This has happened to me on many occasions.

“This is why we are begging AEPB to desist from extorting monies from those who are trying to survive through hard work,” the informer added.

AEPB Reacts

When AljazirahNigeria reached out to the of Head, AEPB Information and Outreach Programme Unit, Muktar Ibrahim denied such acts and urged the citizens to call for the arrest of any officials who are not in uniform and are visiting them to extort money.

According to him, our duty is to get any illegal and unauthorized activities out of the city and that is what we have been doing, we have not derailed and that is why there is sanity in the city.

 “We believe that since hawking on the street of Abuja is illegal, there is no excuse one can give and there is no way you can explain or excuse hawking by this able young men and women because it is breaking the law.

“So, you cannot justify illegality on the basis of sympathy. They are not supposed to hawk, except at designated areas. When we talk about designated areas, we have the markets, we have enclosed commercial centers.

“We don’t have uniform men, and if there any act relating to what you are asking me, I will like them to raise alarm and get such people arrested.”

Aljazirahnews


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Abuja Environmental Protection BoardAEPB