By Bassey Inyang in Calabar
Following what has been ascribed to the increasing spate of kidnapping of their colleagues, especially those from the South-east geo-political zone of Nigeria, resident in Calabar, Cross River State, traders and members of the business community in city have concluded plans to close their shops for one week.
The planned protest which would be at the instance of Concerned Businessmen Forum (CBF), aims at shutting down all shops, and business premises for at least one week to press home their demands for provision of adequate security in the state, and also move the state government to clampdown on kidnappers that have made the state their operational base.
Although no specific date has been fixed for the protest, it was gathered that the action could be embarked on within the week.
Speaking with journalists at the weekend in Calabar, spokesman of the forum, Chief Innocent Anyamelukwe, said it has become imperative for the traders, and businessmen to protest against the incessant kidnapping of their colleagues for ransom.
Anyamelukwe lamented that most of those who have been kidnapped are Igbo traders, and businessmen; among them motor spare parts and building materials merchants, oil marketers, contractors, big transporters, plastic chairs, canopies and tablesâ€™ dealers, pharmacists and doctors.
He disclosed that the decision for the shops to be closed for one week was taken during an emergency meeting with all major stakeholders in the business community.
â€œOver 10 prominent sons have been abducted so far, and millions of naira paid as ransom. Most of the victims pay between N500, 000 and N20m as ransom to secure their release from the kidnappersâ€™ den even when injuries are inflicted on them.
â€œWe have been made victims of kidnap in the state in the last one year and made to pay dearly as ransom to these hoodlums in the last couple of months. Unfortunately, nobody cares about our plight at this excruciating circumstance.
â€œI can tell you that the traders and businessmen who are victims of these hoodlums have been paying through their nose to secure their release. And to protest against this ugly trend we are embarking protest by closing our shops and other business outlets for two days.
â€œAs we talk with you, one Mr. Paulinus Obi, popularly known as Matata, and Emmanuel Ozokwu, an electrical contractor, andÂ one Sunday Ekanem, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Akito Rentals are said to be still in kidnappers den for over week now.Â We are now preys in the hands of criminals and everybody seem not to bother even when we pay our taxes.
â€œIn this light, we have, therefore, resolved to shut down all shops on a day to be announced so as to attract attention and to see how this security lapse can be tackled. We will enforce the closure to press home our demand to stop the kidnapping.
â€œWe have made up our minds resist being victims because we are here to do business and assist in developing the state sincerely. So, we can no longer fold our hand s and watch our people being used as money-minting machine by kidnappers,â€ Anyamelukwe said.
Commenting also on the planned protest, the coordinator of Onye Agala Nwanneya, a socio-cultural group, Amaechi Uwalaka, lamented that the state government has paid deaf ear to the plight of members of the Igbo business community in Calabar metropolis who are the major targets of the kidnappers.
Uwalake, said the group is committed to fighting what he described as injustice against the Igbo people doing business in Cross River.
He said Igbo people have contributed positively to the development of the state, and therefore deserve protection from the state government to enable them carry out their businesses without fear of being attacked.
Uwalake urged the state government to establish security posts, and surveillance team at Nelson Mandela, Bassey Duke, Bedwell, Chamley, Target and White House streets, to deter the criminals from attacking traders and other business people in the affected areas.
Speaking on the issue, Chairman of Ohanaeze Youths, Cross River State, Mr. Remi Awuzie, a lawyer, decried the incessant kidnapping of Igbo businessmen in the state.
â€œIt is worrisome because the kidnapping looks one sided. It has happened in the past and the Igbo were targeted. Then we took it up and laid our complaints to relevant authorities including the Obong of Calabarâ€™s palace. At a point we had respite.
â€œSo, now we donâ€™t know whether it is the same set of people or another set. Well, I may not subscribe to mass protest that would breach public peace, but I would subscribe to Igbo people and other businessmen community meeting with government to find out lasting solutions to this menace,â€ Awuzie said.
It is generally feared that no fewer than 10 Igbo traders and businessmen have been kidnapped in Calabar, and its environs between December 2017 and February this years, and made to pay between N1millionÂ and N20million to secure their freedom from kidnappersâ€™ den.
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