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How scrap dealers stall development in Rivers

By Ann Godwin
26 June 2016   |   1:08 am
Scrap dealers in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, live and operate like kings, as relevant authorities seem unmindful of the detrimental effects of their activities on human lives and the environment.
A section of the scrap market in Port Harcourt.

A section of the scrap market in Port Harcourt.

Scrap dealers in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, live and operate like kings, as relevant authorities seem unmindful of the detrimental effects of their activities on human lives and the environment. They have since taken over a very strategic location in the state capital known as Prof. Okujagu Road, off Peter Odili Road in TransAmadi axis of the city, an area that plays host to most of the oil and gas firms, as well as banks.

The road is strategic because it is a major link to Slaughter and would have helped to decongest traffic around that axis. Though the road is close to Woji and the beautiful Gulf Estate, the activities of the dealers have led to the blockage of the drainage system in the area, thereby making it tough for commuters to use.

A recent visit to the area showed that the dealers live and do their businesses in the same location, which has made the place an eyesore. Further investigations revealed that property owners around the area are wary of coming to develop them due to the nuisance constituted by the dealers. As a result, no single residential building can be found in the area.

There have also been reports of various anti-social behaviours such as drinking and fighting, snatching of people’s bags, phones and money, as well as cases of rape.

The sight of these traders alone is enough to intimidate any visitor, except for those that are used to the environment or those that own or run businesses around there. Although some of these dealers might be innocent and good citizens, but the nature of their businesses may have forced them to look almost like miscreants.

The state undertakes a cleaning exercise every last Saturday of the month, but a visit to the area creates a doubt as to whether the area is excluded from the rest of the Garden City. Findings show that the dealers do not bother about such exercises and the sanitation agents are not bothered about the non-compliance of the dealers either.

The National Examination Council (NECO), whose office is located along the road, recently disclosed that 50 computers were stolen from its complex and till date, no one has been able to account for the missing items.

Speaking on the development, Nicolas Odinwe, an investor in the area and Chairman of Zitadel Medical and Diagnostic Limited, lamented that the situation, if allowed to continue, would scare away prospective investors and possibly kill business in the area.

Though he said the scrap dealers are important to the society, as they help to remove unwanted products, Odinwe stressed the need to properly organise and relocate them to a vocational centre, where their activities won’t disturb other law-abiding citizens.

“As an investor in this part of Port Harcourt, I’m concerned because the scrap dealers’ activities retard business growth around here. People find their looks threatening. They have blocked all the drainages with the wreckages and the road is not left out. Motorists are forced to park their vehicles some distance away and walk down, which they find uncomfortable,” he explained.

Odinwe regretted the State Environmental Agency’s inability to carry out proper cleaning exercise in the area, especially during sanitation period.

“There is no proper sanitation around here. The place is just serving as a breeding ground for scrap gangs. They are not interested in sanitation because nobody is monitoring them. They occupy the road and even bathe openly on the road during the day. They don’t make use of refuse bins and the drainages are blocked and nobody cares,” he said.

While calling on the Sanitation Agency to take up its responsibilities, he appealed to the state government to extend its developmental plan to other parts of the state, as private investors are willing to come to the area, but are discouraged by the scrap dealers’ activities.

“Investors want to come here, but they need to be encouraged. They want to be protected and assured that their businesses will thrive,” he said.

Other residents, who spoke with The Guardian, said the dealers’ attitudes are having terrible negative effects on the people.

Mrs. Effiong Bassey, a food vendor in the area said though people like her food, but she often experiences low patronage due to the unsavoury activities in the surrounding. She called on the state government to relocate the dealers to a better place so that they would be better organised.

Attempts to speak with the dealers failed, as they declined interview with The Guardian. But one of them, who simply gave his name as Musa, said their business is very lucrative and far better than armed robbery.

Said he: “It is obvious that this business makes us appear dirty and odd, but it puts food on our tables daily. We don’t want any disturbance because it is better than stealing. We are willing to work with government to improve the standard of the business and the environment.”

An attempt to reach Jerry Needam, spokesman of the state sanitation agency was futile, as his phone rang without response.