Tackling Menace of Street Trading in Anambra with Solution Stalls

David-Chyddy Eleke reports that Anambra State governor, Prof Chukwuma Soludo is building open stalls within Awka city for various edibles to accommodate street traders who were previously put out by government’s ban and subsequent enforcement

Street traders in Anambra State are among the group of people that have suffered untold hardship under Soludo’s two years as governor.

It started with the hunting and hounding of motorists, including tricyclists and bus operators, with a heavy tax regime, but considering the importance of their services, it took a few protest from the operators to the government house, and downing of tools for Soludo to rescind his decisions against them, and now introduce a friendly tax system.

But in the case of roadside traders, they have in all the two years of Soludo’s administration remained at the mercy of touts who hide under agencies of government to either confiscate their wares, or destroy and smear them on the floor in their presence.

Upon assuming office, Soludo had announced a ban on street trading, but because there were no provisions for street traders to display their wares, and because survival is a necessity, street traders who mostly deal in fruits, vegetables and other wares insisted on violating the order.

Using various government agencies such as OCHA Brigade, ANJET, Awka Capital Territory Development Authority, (ACTDA) and others, the Soludo government always confiscated and destroyed wares of such recalcitrant traders.

During one of such occasions in February, government agents headed by Managing Director of ACTDA, Mr Ossy Onuko, were captured on video, during a demolition exercise of stalls considered to be illegal structures,  were seen beating up a woman who resisted the confiscation of her wares, but what was more heart-rending was how her wares were smeared on the ground, and promptly set ablaze, while the structure which served as her stall was demolished.

All these happened while her little baby cried profusely. The video which had  gone viral, irked many. Reacting to it, the member representing Awka North and South federal constituency, Prof Lilian Orogbu in a video message came down hard on the Soludo-led government.

While agreeing that the state capital needs to wear a new look, Orogbu insisted that such enforcement must wear human face, considering the economic hardship in the country, and also taking into cognisance the fact that no new market has been built to relocate displaced traders.

But last week, what seemed like relief for street traders came, with the commissioning of Solution Arena, an open space with stalls and some lockup shops for sales of fruits, vegetables, grills and sundry items.

The arena, located at the Club Road junction, Awka is said to be one out of many that are springing up in major cities of the state, to permanently solve the problem of street trading.

The governor said all Anambra women who toil everyday, trying to make a living for themselves, in the neighborhood, can now trade their wares in a decent and befitting environment.

Governor Soludo who commissioned the arena stressed that the stalls are free of cost, adding that it is in line with the APGA motto of- Be Your Brother’s and Sister’s Keeper.

“Instead of blocking the traffic and keeping the environment untidy, the beneficiaries are now at liberty to use this environment and keep it clean.

“We commend the Managing Director of Awka Capital Territory Development Authority, ACTDA, Mr Ossy Onuko through whom the project was birthed. As we speak, Odu Igbo market, Onitsha, among other are being built into a convenient shopping arena.”

Over 50 people who were displaced as a result of the end to street trading in the state capital are expected to take up stalls in the arena, it was disclosed.

Meanwhile, Soludo seems to have won the heart of many with the inauguration of the arena. This is as traders in the area praised him for remembering to build the arena for street traders who were displaced months back.

A fruit trader, Miss Oluebube Orji said: “What we like most is the fact that we will not pay for the stalls. The governor announced today that the stalls are also toll free for traders who use them. With this, Soludo has shown that he is a leader who has the well-being of the downtrodden at heart, and we pray God to always bless him.”

Also, an appointee of the governor, Machi Pius Igwe said: “This commissioning of the Solution Arena in Anambra State Capital City, Awka is one of the most joyous events recently.

“Recall when street traders were displaced from around UNIZIK Tempsite, Regina Junction, and its environs, a transformative agenda met with severe criticism from the opposition. Many critics argued that a place should have been provided for them to conduct business due to economic challenges. It is noteworthy that some of the critics who made empty promises were merely seeking political mileage.

“Undeterred,Soludo took action instead of making empty promises. He ensured that no one was left behind, embodying the APGA party slogan “ONYA AGHANA NWANNE YA,” putting smiles on people’s faces.

“While there was a public outcry, Odenigbo focused on restoring the livelihoods of these traders. He not only provided them with smart stalls for their businesses but also instructed the exemption from taxation for traders with capital below a N100,000.

“Shame on those who sought to play politics with the emotions of our people! They are the enemies of progress. While Soludo believed in a smart and elevated Awka, they indirectly wanted Awka to remain a glorified village as a State Capital. Governor Soludo’s actions, with many more to come, demonstrate his commitment to improving the lives of our people, bringing development to rural areas, and transforming our major cities,” Igwe said.

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