FOODSTUFF dealers under the aegis of the Federated Foodstuff Dealers Association of Nigeria have threatened to stop the distribution of food items across the nation if the Federal and State Governments fail to intervene and stop incessant levies and harassment by persons who claim to be task forces along federal highways across the country.
Addressing a press conference in Enugu yesterday, the National President of the association Chief Christian Afiaunwu also disclosed that the association had lost over 100 members to the activities of the illegal task forces who he noted operate mostly at nights.
Afianwu who was flanked at the press conference by the Secretary of the association Udoka Ahukanna, and other members, lamented that government had failed to act after several reports and petitions over the activities of the miscreants which he said had affected prices of foodstuff and the economy.
“What we are saying is that we will stop the distribution of food items of any kind in any part of the country including Aso Rock. Nobody will distribute anything at all no matter how little. Since the government has paid deaf ears to our petitions, we must begin to act in such a way that they will know that we are human beings who should be listened to. We cannot continue to suffer out of nothing”, he said.
He said the association had refused to take the law into its own hands by mobilizing members against the illegal agents, “because such a clash will lead to loss of lives and we don’t want that even though they have succeeded in killing our members on the road through their activities.
“We have restrained ourselves from taking an action that will affect the masses but we have no other option left than to try out the strike alternative; if this strike is allowed we shall cut off the flow of food items throughout Nigeria and you know what that will mean; it will add a difficult dimension to the hunger and starvation which is already biting hard.
“We are dealers in all kinds of foodstuff and farm produce; we are engaged in the procurement and transportation of these products from one location to places where they are mostly needed; but we have been facing incessant harassment and intimidation on highways following the activities of miscreants who claim to be agents of government.”
Afiaunwu identified Obollo-Afor in Enugu State as one of the most notorious points where their members had suffered untold hardship as they were regularly compelled to part with substantial sums under the guise of taxes and government revenues.
He alleged that a particular traditional ruler involved in the racket had severally been reported to the police but nothing had changed.
He said that there were about six illegal tolls alone at Obollo Afor, adding that resistance by his members to pay the levies had always ended on a sad note.
“At night, these agents consisting of miscreants who have built and constructed tents and huts by the roadside come out in their numbers and mount roadblocks with arms accosting and robbing our people and even when you run to the police nothing comes off such a report. The activities of this group are contrary to Act 21 of 1998, which stipulates that no persons including a tax authority, shall mount a road block in any part of the federation for the purpose of collecting any tax or levy”, he added.
He listed the areas where the activities of these hoodlums are mostly experienced to include North East, North Central, Taraba, Nasarawa, Benue, Kogi and Enugu States describing Obollo-Afor as the most notorious of all.
“Sometimes they will tell you that the cow or goat you are carrying is not fit for human consumption and in your presence they will slaughter and share the meat amongst themselves and you cannot do anything, ” he said.