By Deji Abdulwahab
Abuja, Feb. 13, 2019 (NNN) Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) on Wednesday urged food vendors and hawkers to operate in authorised places to prevent the alleged extortion by its enforcement task force.
AEPB Head of Information and Outreach Unit, Mallam Muktar Ibrahim, made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NNN) in Abuja.
Ibrahim said that the traders should also engage markets managers to secure authorised places to operate.
He was reacting to the allegation by some food vendors and street hawkers that AEPB enforcement task force was extorting money from them.
He said that the complain of alleged extortion from the street hawkers and food vendors by its task force would continue if they failed to operate in authorised places.
“This complaint will never end the running battle between AEBP task force and hawkers, food vendors. My usual advice in this case is that he who comes with equity must come with clean hands.
“That is to say that the people who are accusing should not engage in any illegal activities in the first place because if they don’t engage in illegal activities, they will not create room where corrupt people may try to extort money from them.
“I want to say that in case where it is proven that money has been extorted, we are not going to spare our men involved in this kind of thing,’’ the information officer said.
According to him, it is not a matter of policy for our men to extort money from those who are breaking the law because those who are will face sanction to prevent the reoccurrence of that illegality.
“So, in that sense, our aim is to arrest people who break the law through their engagement of street begging, hawking or operating in prohibited places.
“The idea is to deter them from something that is wrong and to prevent them from coming to the same spot but in a situation where our officials collect money; it means that the aim is defeated.
“It means that those who indulge in this illegality will not be deterred. They will simply continue knowing that if they give out the money, they will be allowed to stay in their illegal places,’’ he said.
Ibrahim, who said that AEPB would not condone such act, urged the public and media to expose people engaged in such illegality with proof of evidence.
“To the best of my knowledge, I have not been involved in any case or rather I do not know any situation where AEPB staff have been accused and found to be guilty.
“Because of this, I have been telling people that if you want to make any accusation against any of these people, ensure that you have proof.
“If there is no proof, it is just word of mouth. It now becomes the word of accuser and word against the word of the accused. That is why it is difficult to prosecute such people,’’ he said.
The information officer also sought for collaboration of residents to support the AEPB efforts in arresting impostors of its enforcement officials.
“We have a case of our former staff who worked in the enforcement department. Because of their knowledge in enforcing the law they also pose as environmental officers to defraud the public because some people also make such accusation.
“Some of these people could either be past officers or not even members of AEPB. They go to selected places time to time, posing to be AEPB staff and collect money to allow these people to continue breaking the law.
“This does not help our job. In fact, it makes it more difficult because these people believe that they have paid money and money earns them the right to break the law,’’ he said.
According to him, it becomes difficult to deter such people from their wrong ways. (NNN)
Edited by Grace Yussuf