Judex Okoro, Calabar
Traders have shut markets and shops in Calabar metropolis in protest against rising cases of kidnapping in the state .
The traders, in the name of Calabar Traders Union, lamented that their members have fallen prey to kidnappers and hoodlums who have subjected them to all sorts of inhuman treatment.
According to them, over eighteen of their members have been kidnapped in the last ten months and ransom paid even as some of them have lost their lives after passing through several ordeals, adding that one of thier patrons, Chief Jude Odinka, has been in captive for eight weeks.
When Daily Sun went round the metropolis, it was observed that timber market in Calabar Municipal and spare parts market at Bedwell are shut while shops located at Bedwell, Chamley, Goldie, Bassey Duke, IBB and Garden axis were all closed.
Almost all the shops had a poster with inscription: “Calabar has become a safe haven for kidnapping and armed robbery as our people are kidnapped on daily basis. So we are calling on the state government to come to our aid.”
Speaking with journalists, the Vice President, Electrical Dealers and Allied Products, Akparawa David Esien, said the issue of insecurity was strange and allien to Calabar.
Essien said they have become a veritable target as many of thier members have either been kidnapped or attacked or died in thier captors den.
“We are closing our shops, shades and markets including timber markets, spare parts market/shops and electrical stores for two days to protest the incessant kidnap of our members.
“It has degenerated to kidnap of ordinary traders and not the moguls and that’s how bad it is now. We laud thier efforts in demolishing houses of Kidnappers but the state government must rise up and take the bull by it’s horn.
“We can no longer keep quiet becuase our members are suffering because some of these traders are on loans and credit facility which they pay after sales .
“But due to ransom they pay to these criminals, they have become perpetual debtors. Now we work for the kidnappers as capital and profit are paid to them.
Some of our members have paid as high as N7m.
“We are appealing to Gov Ayade ,the police to come to our aid as the two-day closure is just a warning to drive home our greviances
“We are not happy; we do business in fear because of the level of insecurity in Calabar. The anti kidnapping law should be enforced,” he stated.
On his part, Bro Festus Mbanu, Chairman Building Materials Traders Association Calabar, called on government to come to thier rescue as they are afraid to do business as before for fear of being attacked, kidnapped or killed.
He said:”This is our way of letting the authorities know that we are worried.
Many of our members both male and female are not spared. Once you are percieved to be able to pay, you will be picked up and you are forced to pay the ransom. Lots of shops and businesses have packed up already because of this ugly trend ,” he said.
Reacting, the chairman of Etim Edem Market Welfare Association, Elder Umoh Ette, said the association joined others to register their grievances stated above as it all affect every citizen.
On his part, the chairman of Motor and Motorcycle Spare Parts Dealers Association Calabar, Comrade Tony Umejiaku, said a good number of traders are only complaining of insecurity in the metropolis which has been on the rise.
According to him, his members have been the greatest victims of kidnapping business, adding that some of them have been kidnapped twice within a year or two.
“Closing shops is to say please call on governement improve upon security within the Bewdwell axis to enable us do business freely without fear or favour.
“Now we close our shops by 5:30pm everyday to run away from these hoodlums. The governemnt slam us with all sorts of taxes and levies ranging from business premises to development levy.
He said, however, governemnt has taken soe. Steps to look into the plight of traders though Anti Tax Ageancy, but further called them to double efforts and rid the tourism state of kidnapping.
Equally reacting to the closure, the State Security Adviser to the Governor (South) Mr Ani Essien, said Governor Ben Ayade had already statted addressing the security challenge in the state by setting up and mandating the security personnel to go after all criminals.
Ani said in the last three weeks the security team has been closing in on all known cultists, kidnappers and criminals and have the directive of the Gicernrobto rid the state of those elements.
He said they have made tremendous progress so far in curbing kidnapping and cultism as seen in the demolition of houses belonging to criminals, adding that what is expected of the traders is partner with government to see how the issues raise by then could be tackled.