Traders in Aba have threatened to reopen their shops in major markets, if Abia Ministry of Trade and Investment continue delaying the reopening.
Some residents who spoke to News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) disclosed this in separate interviews on Thursday in Aba.
Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia had on May 1, at a meeting with market leaders and other stakeholders outlined modalities for gradual relaxation of lockdown.
The modalities included setting up 17-man COVID-19 market task forces to enforce the reopening policy directive to ensure compliance with safety rules before reopening.
According to Ikpeazu, the task force will meet with market leadership, the committee and Deputy Chief of Staff, office of the Deputy Governor, to work out modalities.
Mr. Gilbert Ezenwa, a trader in Ariaria Market, said traders were fed up with staying at home as government was yet to form the implementation committee to ensure the return of the traders to business.
Ezenwa alleged that Abia State Ministry of Trade and Investment was tactically delaying reopening markets, using it to compel them to buy hand-washing buckets exorbitantly priced between N2,500 and N5,000.
“We cannot continue to sit at home when we know that our Governor has given an order that we are willing to comply with so that our shops can be reopened.
“We read from the newspapers that Cosmos instructed us to buy buckets of running water, face masks and sanitizers.
“Almost all of us have bought those items and are waiting for them to open markets only for us to hear that the Ministry in charge of trade and other persons are yet to form the 17-man committee.
“They are joking with our future but we will go on and open our shops if they insists on making our lives miserable,” he said.
Alphonsus Ezeike, a cosmetics dealer at Eziukwu market alleged that both the Ministry of Trade and Investment and the office charged by Gov Ikpeazu to form the committee have dubious plans.
He said government agents insisted the traders must buy their own buckets with tap before they will reopen markets instead of considering their sufferings.
“The Governor should ask our market leaders because it’s a deal between them and the ministry,” he said.
When contacted, Abia Commissioner for Trade and Investment, Cosmos Ndukwe denied the allegation of forcefully selling buckets to the traders saying it was a rumour.
He however, said that the delay in reopening of markets was not the ministry’s fault, adding that more meetings needed to be convened by the office of the Deputy Chief of Staff to Abia Deputy Governor.
“I do not manufacture buckets, I do not sell buckets. Will government be that stupid to go and buy buckets and ask traders to buy it so that the traders will go and fake it?
“The delay is just because we are trying to compel maximum compliance in the markets because our markets are so tight especially Ariaria. Governor is the only one that can issue directives on that,” he said.
Ndukwe pleaded with the traders to exercise patience, stressing that government was feeling their pains and considering some issues that would help implement the policy which would drive market reopening.
“You see, all the people that come from West, North like Kano, they are the major stakeholders in almost all the markets.
“They come in from North to trade and go. So, we want to put up some protocols that will help to checkmate unnecessary spread of this pandemic.
“Another thing is, the committee members that will be selected will all be trained and after the training, they will go back and pass all instructions to the marketers that will carry out the enforcement,” he said.