Deserted Market Shops in Calabar

Incessant kidnapping of traders in the Cross River State especially in Calabar has forced the Calabar trade Union CTU to protest by closing all their member shops for two days.

The traders are calling for the government to arise and live up to its responsibility by providing adequate security in the state against the high level of criminality in the state, especially in Calabar.

The traders as at close of business on Tuesday did not carve in to the threat issued by the Cross River State Government to arrest and prosecution those who attempt to coerce traders to shut down their shops.

Our correspondent gathered that the latest kidnap of Chief Jude Odinka, who has been in the kidnappers’ dens for the past two months, may have constrained the traders to take the action. They lamented that over 18 of their members have been kidnapped in the last 10 months.

In a chat with Journalists, the Vice President, Electrical Dealers & Allied Product, Akparawa David Esien, said traders have become easy targets.

His words, “we are closing our shops, shades, and markets including timber markets, spare parts market/shops, electrical stores amongst others for two days to protest the incessant kidnap of our members.

“We laud the government’s efforts at demolishing houses of kidnappers but the state government must rise up and take the bull by its horn.

We can no longer keep quiet because our members are suffering, some of these traders use loans while some get goods from importers on credit and pay back after selling them.

“But due to the ransom they pay to these criminals, they have become perpetual debtors because it seems they now work for the kidnappers.

Some have paid as high as N7million. We are appealing to Gov Ayade and the police to come to our aid.”

The Chairman, Building Materials Traders Association, Calabar, Festus Mbanu, on his part, said “This is our way of letting the authorities know that most of us no longer go to our shops or business places because you don’t know if you are the next target. They kidnap us on a daily basis now.

“No one is spared, both male and female. Once you are perceived to be able to pay, you are picked up and you are forced to pay the ransom for your release. A lot of shops and businesses have packed up already because of this ugly trend,” he lamented.

Also speaking, the Chairman, Spare Parts Dealers Association, Obi Ajuluchukwu, said “some of my members have been kidnapped more than once; even a pregnant woman and many others are still in their dens.

“Over 25 of my members have relocated to Akwa Ibom state. Calabar is no longer safe as it used to be. The two-day shutdown is a warning strike. The government should declare a state of emergency on security,” he enthused.

It would be recalled that the government had earlier warned against the strike, saying that it would arrest and prosecute any person or group of persons under any guise seen obstructing any trader from opening his/her shop.

A press release signed by the Permanent Secretary, Governor’s Office, Dr. Alfred Mboto, read in part: “the attention of the Cross River State Government has been drawn to a plan by some members of Igbo traders union in the Calabar metropolis to force their members to close their shops for two days with effect from Monday, June 22, 2020.

“Government is also aware of the threat of an N50,000 surcharge by the union on any Igbo trader who opens his or her shop for business within the two days. Their plan is unacceptable to government and government will do everything within her power and the law to arrest and prosecute any person or group of persons under any guise seen obstructing any Igbo trader from opening his/her shop for business in the state on Monday, June 22, 2020, and Tuesday, June 23, 2020.”

Mboto charged traders to disregard the call for strike and advised the striking traders “to encourage the state government on the on-going war against kidnappers, cultists, drug trades, arm robbers, and other illegal operations in the state.”

But, the situation on the ground indicated the traders did not heed the advice, our correspondent reports.