Wednesday, September 19, 2007

This is the follow up to a story about the Environmental task force, and their methods. The problem they say is that street hawking brings crime and chaos, and besmirches the image of Abuja as a modern city worthy of being a federal capital.
The real situation is that illiterate people are giving up the country to come and sell services like phone recharge cards, car washes, shoe repair, finger and toenail clipping, and yes, even drugs and sex because there is a market for it and few alternatives in the 'formal economy'.
One analysis is that the gravitational pull to urban informal jobs is so strong the authorities are readily resorting to violence to make up for the failure of poverty reduction programmes in the countryside.
Another possible situation is that the 'godfathers' of the hawkers, the businessmen behind the street vendors, are getting in on both sides. There are mutterings among hawkers that the AEPB is nothing more than an official extortion racket. Where do these un-uniformed, unidentified operatives employed from? Hawkers who take more money, like suya sellers, pay them off and they are left alone. It is not so unlikely that someone somewhere is chopping big.

The environmental task force yesterday accused a musician beaten up by its agents of being a “hawking godfather”, and said its agents have the right to use force on people who get in the way of their operations.
The Abuja Environment Protection Board has been accused of using thugs in the execution of its duties by the National President of the GSM Product Marketers and Technician Association of Nigeria.
Hadiza Abdullahi, director of the AEPB, said their officers would be on the lookout for musician Age Beeka, 31, after he escaped a beating by the ‘task force’ last Thursday.
She said: “This is a wanted man. He broke the law when he tried to intervene in the officers doing their duty. How are you supposed to arrest someone? By just tapping them on the shoulder and saying come with me? If there is a struggle our officers are allowed to use force.”
City News reported yesterday Mr Beeka was punched repeatedly in the face and groin when he asked operatives of the AEPB why they were trying to arrest a night watchman and some hawkers in
Port Harcourt Crescent. He says he did not realise they were AEPB until after they attacked him because they did not wear any uniforms or show him identification. He was put in the back of an unmarked van with federal plates where he says the beating continued. He escaped by jumping out of the van when it was driving. Witnesses in Port Harcourt Crescent have confirmed Mr Beeka was beaten.
Mrs Abdullahi said: “If you had dug a little further you will discover that this man is the sponsor of the boys selling the cards. Why would he intervene otherwise?”
Mr Beeka said: “What evidence do they have to say that? It’s ridiculous. I’m taking them to court and let them show the evidence they have to say that. How is it part of their legal duty to beat up people?”
Emmanuel Onwubiko of the Nigerian Human Rights Commission said: “This sounds as if it breaks constitutional rules on torture. If someone is resisting arrest, minimal force may be used, but there are recognised legal techniques for getting alleged suspects to cooperate. Punching someone in the groin is torture!”
Diran Onifade, special assistant for communications at the
Federal Capital Territory said: “There is no evidence that he was beaten up. The scars in your picture are clearly from where he admitted himself he leaped from the moving van. He evaded arrest and has broken the law. It is very likely he did this because he is the hawkers’ godfather.”
Prince Fidelis Nnadi national president of the GSM Product Marketers and Technician Association of Nigeria told City News yesterday after the conclusion of the association’s general meeting in
Abuja, that they have complained to the AEPB authorities about the situation but nothing has been done to stop it.
“We have been complaining about this same situation for over three years now but nothing has been done about it by the authority, we have organised series of workshops in which they were invited but never honoured the invitations” he said.
The AEPB denied using thugs and said their plainclothes officers only enforced the law.
The AEPB director, Mrs Abdullahi told City News hawkers are responsible for committing crimes like rape and robbery.
Mr Onifade said Mr Beeka got off lightly. He said: “If this were in
America, this musician would have been dead!”

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