The Journey So Far
It's about three months now that the Task Force on street trading, illegal markets and motor parks was inaugurated by the Nyesom Wike-led Rivers State government. This was coming after a similar Task Force on Road Decongestion within Port Harcourt and its environs was put in place. The Task Force on Road Decongestion like similar ones in the past under former administrations did not record much success for some obvious reasons. Perhaps, guided by the dismal performance and actions of those assigned with the responsibility of implementing the policy, the Rivers State Government reasoned there was need to come up with a better articulated Task Force legally backed up to do the much needed sanitary surgery on the environment if the lost Garden City status of Port Harcourt must be restored as envisioned by the Wike administration.
It indeed, takes a great leader with vision to come up with this policy and even a greater leader to head the Task Force that must step on toes, cherish the insults and abuses of those who had long been in the illegitimate business of street trading, illegal markets and motor park operations that they now think and believe their business is legitimate and legal.
After all, they are simply helping to service humanity by bringing their wares closer to the people and motorists, and most importantly, voted for the government in power, they usually argue.
True to this, no sooner had the Task Force taken off than their targets – street traders, illegal markets and motor park operators cried out, alleging high-handedness, unconcern and insensitive to their challenges against the Task Force. This is not unexpected if the intention of government must be realized. Three months after, faces are now beaming with smiles with regard to how free the roads and streets even in the over populated Diobu axis of Port Harcourt can be. One can now programme oneself and rightly calculate how long it will take one to get to one's destination without having to suffer undue delays due to heavy traffic jam and the concomitant risks posed by hoodlums, pick-pockets etc.
There is therefore no gainsaying the fact, that the Task Force is doing well and should even improve on their operations.
However, we'll only be wallowing in a fool's paradise if we think or conclude that the real reason for establishing the Task Force has been met on account of freer roads and decongestion. Far from this, the Task Force still has a long way to go especially in instilling discipline in some of their staff.
On several occasions, there have been reported cases of some of the staff of the Task Force abetting and encouraging taxi and bus drivers to contravene the rules by providing them cover to stop and pick or alight passengers at points not designated for such and collect tips for such favour.
This, to say the least is regrettable and must be discouraged if the Task Force on street trading, illegal markets and motor parks must not go the way the ones before them did.
It's also reported and truly too, that some staff of the Task Force seem not to know their bounds and in some cases, are tempted to use their position to get at their enemies by breaking and confiscating their wares and even assaulting them under the guise of decongesting the roads and streets. This is wrong, unlawful and ungodly, and must discontinue so that the Task Force does not seem to be caught up in the act of justice that corrupts those that perform them.
Recently, there was a media report on how some senior staff of the Task Force illegally broke and jumped over the barricades beyond which the roadside traders around the Wimpy area of Port Harcourt must not display their goods, harassing and intimidating the innocent traders and carting away their wares including generators, fans and other electrical appliances on the flimsy excuse that they provided light for those trading by the roadsides. Reports also have it that each of the items confiscated is only released on the payment of thirteen thousand (N13,000) naira. This is not the vision of the Rivers State government which having anticipated that this kind of mannerism could arise, had set up a mobile court to try such offenders. To undermine such legitimate mobile courts to arbitrarily charge money and, or extort money from perceived offenders is not only criminal but also antithetical to the efforts of government to imbibe the culture of lawful and healthy living in Port Harcourt residents.
It's therefore on this note, that we enjoin the government and all relevant agencies to look into these allegations and ensure that they are addressed by purging the Task Force of bad eggs and touts who are cashing in on their privilege to unleash mayhem on innocent citizens and give a bad name to government.