The Nigeria Shippers Council, Anambra Chapter, on Tuesday condemned the extortion of importers bringing goods to markets in Onitsha by criminals.
The President of the Anambra chapter of the council, Mr Emmanuel Akpaka, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Onitsha that the development was affecting business in the commercial city negatively.
Akpaka, also a licensed custom agent, said that the dimension of the extortion was such that unidentified persons could just walk to shop owners in the market and ask them to pay tax on their goods.
“Just carry a small bag loaded with goods from main market, people will hijack you and ask you to pay a certain amount. If you don’t pay, it’s either they beat you up or they confiscate your goods.
“And it is driving away some of our customers, and they don’t care who you are, they have been embarrassing people and chasing away our customers.
“I look at it as an organised crime; everybody is aware of that.
“The irony of it all is that these people that do all these things are not stakeholders in commerce.
“I have traveled far and wide; I can’t remember any country, any market outside Onitsha, Anambra State, that I have gone to that people stopped me to pay tax because I am carrying a small bag.
“And if this thing continues, the foreign investors we are talking of, none of them is coming. Because the ones we are having we are chasing them away.“
Akpaka, therefore, appealed to the Anambra State Government do all in its power to stop the trend before emerging markets in neighbouring states would assume the status of commercial hubs at the expense of Onitsha.
NAN reports that articulated vehicles carrying goods to Onitsha are compelled to pay monies to at least three unauthorised groups in the area, while the driver of the vehicle is expected to personally give between N10, 000 and N15, 000 to each of the groups.
Any driver who refuses to pay up is either beaten up or the container carrying the goods damaged and may even be stopped from offloading the goods he is carrying anywhere in the commercial city.