Petty traders and hawkers in major markets and parks in the Calabar metropolis are having a tough time as the state government embarked on the clearance of major markets and motor parks in the metropolis.
Officials of the state government had embarked on operation to decongest markets and motor parks in the process seizing goods and wares of petty traders and hawkers.
The action was part of the renewed drive by the state government to restore the famed clean and green environment the city is famous for.
Calabar was famous for its clean and green nature particularly during the last decade in the hey days of the Donald Duke administration when trees and flowers were planted across the city and petty trading was largely restricted.
However, over the years, the clean and green nature of the city gave way to emergence of heaps of refuse across the city made worse by the activities of street traders.
The situation further deteriorated by indiscriminate parking along major ways causing traffic gridlock.
Watts, popularly called Urua Watt by the locals, as well as the oldest Etim Edem park, where travellers board buses to different parts of the country were particularly targeted by the sanitation officials.
The Ministry of Environment had earlier issued an ultimatum for all traders to vacate and relocate elsewhere.
Upon the expiration of the ultimatum, the ministry moved in caterpillars and brought down all the kiosks and temporary stalls erected by the traders so as to make way for the restoration of the park.
However, the traders blamed the government for the situation pointing out to the shortage of stalls and spaces in the various markets in the metropolis. They said this had forced them to engage in hawking their wares on the streets.
One of the traders, Williamson Akpan, said there was an acute shortage of market stalls across the city. He said the existing markets in Calabar particularly the two major markets, have no stores for them.
Ifiok Bassey, a middle aged woman who sells fruits, bitter kola, groundnuts and kolanut, said that displacing them without providing a viable alternative was not the best move by government.
“There are no open stalls for us to sell our wares, that was why I decided to come here and sell my goods. It is not every trader that needs a store to sell his goods like mine so it is wrong to say every trader has to get a store.
“Every city you go, there are always open spaces for traders to do their businesses and so I don’t see any logical reason why government should come and chase us from this park.
“If at all they don’t want us to stay here, where are they sending us to? They should have provided a space for us to go before coming to chase us from this place. They have to reconsider this decision because it is not fair,” she said.
Elizabeth Hanson another trader at the park said the decision of the government to suddenly expel them from the park was not in the traders’ interest.
“I have been selling clothes here for the past 15 years and my decision to come here and erect a metal shop was because there are no stores to let at the Watt Market. More people are coming into the city to carry out businesses particularly trading and when government does not provide new market stores or build more markets, where do you expect them to go?
However, the Commissioner for Environment, Mfon Bassey, said the government has no apologies to make since enough notice had been given out through the media.
He said government had to rise to arrest the situation to restore the status and image of the state.
“The rate at which the state was sliding into filth, selling at unauthorised places and taking over of parks meant for vehicles as well as congestions noticeable in the city needed to be addressed without further waste of time”, he said.