Traders decry harassment and extortion over plastic bags in markets
By Tambe Claire Ladi
Traders in Kumba, Buea, Limbe and Muea markets have bitterly complained of continuous harassment and extortion of money by security operatives on market days because of refusal to use poorly made in Cameroon plastic bags in preference to those made in Nigeria. The affront has continued unabated for some time with officials of the Ministry of Trade and security operatives extorting huge amounts of money from both sellers and buyers in the name of maintaining law and order.
The Star visited the New Market at Church Street, Limbe, Buea Market near the Molyko Stadium, Kumba and the Muea Markets and witnessed some ugly scenes unfold at different hiatus and was shocked at the way traders and market women were harassed and even humiliated, demanding FCFA 50.000 as fines. Some of the victims pleaded and paid what they had and disappeared. When The Star contacted a woman in pain, she lamented that they collected only FCFA 15.000 and would not even give her a receipt. Others said the extortion had become unbearable and complained of the inferior quality of plastic bags produced in Cameroon as opposed to what they previously bought from Nigeria.
One of them bluntly told The Star that if they had their way, they shall continue to buy Made in Nigeria plastic bag and pay fines until Cameroon can produce acceptable plastic bags.
This problem of plastic bags has brought anguish and bewilderment in the markets because the sellers moan that what the government has made available for them is substandard. It is very difficult to buy Gari, groundnuts, meat and fruits without plastic bags. Made in Cameroon looks like what comes from Nigeria but weak. How frustrating!
The market sellers said they were happy using plastic bags imported from Nigeria which were solid but it is now considered unused by the government, reason why they cannot use them again but with old stock of Nigerian made plastic bags, some of them want to exhaust them. The ban by government for environmental reasons, they said, may be good but it must produce a better alternative to the people. To some merchants, this was not a solid reason after all. So, they still went ahead using the plastic bags that were banned by the government. By so doing, instead of the government to improve the quality of its product to handle the situation, they use the other way round by employing the security to penetrate the markets, harass and collect huge sums of money fixed at FCFA 50.000 from poor market men and women caught with the banned plastic bags. Marketers have appealed to the government to call the security operatives, particularly the police to order and also advised to produce better plastic bags to avoid the ugly situations on-going in Limbe, Muea and Buea markets with no exceptions to other markets in the country.