The ban of scavengers and their activities in Akwa Ibom State by the state government has pit the Udom administration against a rights group, Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO).
The Udom administration is claiming that it took the decision following “grave infractions including acts of criminality and threat to peaceful inter-ethnic relationships in the state.’’
Apparently not persuaded, CLO is faulting the outright ban on scavenging in the state by the state government, arguing that ‘’scrap scavenging is like every other business where we have bad eggs. Instead of outright banning thereby creating greater challenges in the future where many of them would be rendered unemployed, the government should regulate their activities through law.”
CLO Chairman, Franklyn Isong, and Secretary, Christopher Ekpo, made the position of the foremost rights group public in Uyo, the state capital, stating that the ban would have come by way of law with provisions from regulatory body to regulate the activities of scrap metal scavengers in the state
It described the Udom administration’s ban on the activities of scrap metal scavengers as reactive, and maintained that the government ought to have signed the bill on scavenging earlier passed in 2019, and recalled that a Bill on metal scavengers was sponsored by a state legislator, Aniekan Uko representing Ibesikpo Asutan State Constituency in the state House of Assembly in 2019.
While noting that the Bill had passed first and second reading and was even subjected to public hearing, lamenting that nothing is being heard of such a Bill again, CLO argued that if such a Bill was passed into law, that ugly incident would not have occurred in the state.
“What we are saying is that the present ban on metal Scrap scavenging is reactive of the state government and paints a picture that the government is temperamental. This sort of thing should come by way of a law, where there would be provisions from a regulatory body that will regulate the activities of scrap metal scavengers in the state.
“Luckily the 7th House of Assembly had done so through a bill sponsored by the member representing Ibesikpo Asutan state constituency, Aniekan Uko in 2019. That bill has passed first and second reading and was subjected to public hearing but at a point, nobody heard about that bill again.
“If that bill had run its course and been signed by the governor there would have been a proper regulatory body. The incidents that gave rise to this ban wouldn’t have occurred”, CLO said as it called on the state House of Assembly to revisit and ensure that the Bill is passed into law in the state.
“So we want the state government and the House of Assembly to revisit that bill seeking to regulate the business of scrap scavenging in the state’’, the rights group said.
The Udom administration in a statement by the Secretary to the State Government, Dr Emmanuel Ekwuwen, banned the activities of scrap metal scavengers in the state after a clash between the some Hausa scavengers and Akwa Ibom residents which resulted to the death of three persons recently.
Insiders say the ban was not unconnected with a clash between the scavengers and some people in the state which left at least four persons dead after a reprisal attack during the weekend.
“The action of government is also in consonance with public sentiments amidst popular complaints against the activities of these scavengers who wantonly violate peoples properties, stealing and assaulting law abiding citizens in the process”, the Udom administration said.
According to it, sometime in 2021, multiple explosions, causing fatalities, were recorded in Oruk Anam Local Government Area in the course of scavengers sorting out what turned out to be military brand explosives adding that about four lives were lost in this incident.
Adding, the statement said, “on January 2, 2022, scavengers violated the premises of a citizen in Afaha Oku, Uyo Local Government Area in an attempt to cart away properties. While attempting to prevent the scavengers, the citizen was callously murdered in cold blood while mob action was visited on the scavenger assailants causing the death of the two scavengers.”
“Sundays appear to be the busiest day for these scavengers who take advantage of mass Church attendance to invade homes and cart away valuables leaving hapless citizens with tales of woe upon their return from Church.
“As a responsible government, we can no longer tolerate the activities of this industry which evidently is in no way adding value to the socio-economic well being of the state but rather escalating tensions and threatening the overall peace and security of the State. Accordingly, the operations of scrap scavengers in the State are banned forthwith. Violators of this ban will be apprehended and dealt with according to the law.”
In the same vein, the state government also announced the ban of motorcycle operations within Uyo metropolis saying defaulters stand the chance of losing not only their motorcycles but also would risk being prosecuted and possibly jailed.
“Security Agencies and the general public are therefore put on notice. An enforcement structure has been put in place to effect these directives to the letter. The general public should be rest assured that the government will leave no stones unturned in ensuring the safety of lives and properties as well as the peace and security of the state”, the statement said.