-Over Removal From Ganta’s Main Street
Dozens of street vendors affected by the recent crackdown by authorities in Ganta are growling harder against the action, calling on authorities to rethink the decision.
City authorities in Ganta recently conducted an exercise to remove street vendors and petty traders from selling on the city’s Main Street, affecting money changers, those trading mixed goods in wheelbarrows, and others working from makeshift structures.
Bush Chicken, a Liberian on-line magazine, quotes Jeremiah Bedell, one of the affected vendors as expressing frustrations over the mayor’s actions. “Unfortunately for us, we didn’t get any information from the city mayor that we should remove from this entire Street,” Bedell said.
He complained that he and others had some of their goods and selling tables damaged as a result of the city government’s actions. “Our market that we used to go to school, to feed our children, the city mayor ordered people and it was broken yesterday. Now as I am speaking, [there is] no food for me to eat,” he said.
Bedell said he was mobilizing others to request that the city mayor provide them alternative sites for selling. “We need [a] place to sell,” he said. “Since we cannot sell on the main street, let one of the communities around here be fixed so we can go there and sell for us to look for our daily bread.”
Bedell said it was unfortunate that the mayor did not reach the decision with them through dialogue, as he said petty traders also pay taxes yearly. “We pay tax, we pay tax,” he exclaimed. “Tax collectors come to us, we pay L$1,500 yearly. We have the papers…”
Bedell said they also pay fees to the city whenever their materials are taken away by the city’s task force in raids on street vendors. He said such fees are at the discretion of city authorities. He said he would continue to remain calm as he called on the mayor to rethink the decision. He noted that rendering so many individuals jobless could increase the crime rate in the city.
Another street vendor who expressed disappointment in the mayor’s actions was Allen Dosen, a money changer on Main Street. In no uncertain terms, he described the situation on Saturday morning as “war.”
“Even in the great Monrovia, there are business people all in the streets,” he said. “Coming and taking people’s things, breaking down tables just like we’re fighting war, it really didn’t go down well with me,” he lamented.
In a press statement, the head of the Nimba branch of the National Petty Traders Union of Liberia, Nyumah Fayiah, described the actions of the mayor as ‘unfair’. He said the mayor should reconsider his decision.
“I call you the press today to let the public know that the recent action of our city mayor to remove petty traders from the main street is unfair to the union,” he said. “We as a union are calling on the honorable man to reconsider his decision.”
Fayiah, however, called on all members of the union to remain calm as the leadership attempts to have a dialogue with the city. Mayor Benjamin Dokpa, in response to the concerns of the petty traders, said his actions were aimed at protecting the government’s right-of-way and the rights of individuals who owned stores along Main Street.
He said the petty traders had been warned to leave on several occasions: “We have advised them [a] couple of times. [On] more than two occasions, I have been on the streets telling them to leave the street.”
Dokpa noted that street vendors have made it difficult for owners of shops to operate. “They must understand that where your right stops, another person’s right begins,” the mayor said. “It is not because of you selling on the streets that Unity Business Center cannot drive on the driveway to drop his goods at his shop.”
He continued: “They must understand that these people pay taxes; they are paying taxes to the city government also. So people must understand that the right-of-way is for the government of Liberia, and before you sit there, it must be something decided by the government of Liberia.”
The major issue raised by the petty traders is the fact that there was no written communication provided to them, allowing them time to move to an alternative location. While Dokpa confirmed that his office did not officially write to the petty traders, he said he had warned them verbally before taking the action. (Source: Bush Chicken)