Akparawa Idorenyin Raphael, JP, Chairman of South-South/South-East Traders Forum and President of Akwa Ibom Traders Cooperative Association , also the pioneer Special Assistant to the Governor on Trade and Market Matters.
He speaks with Ibom Telegraph on the welfare of Akwa Ibom traders, politics and sundry matters. Excerpts:

It appears there is a commendable level of unity amongst traders in the state. What really happened?

Akwa Ibom Traders Cooperative Association is the biggest in the country. Before now we had political groups where people join and get printed polo to wear for campaign and all that. When I came in, I told the traders that we have the numerical strength of 1.8million traders but that we have never taken advantage of what we have. So, I decided to organize the traders into cooperative societies and as we speak, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has given us approval to run Trader Cooperative Bank. The traders are also using their numerical strength to get bank guarantees for their businesses. The Dakkada philosophy has really helped us in this regard alongside the interest-free loans from the state government. So, the unity simply stems out from all these.

We understand that the Bank of Industry (BOI) and the CBN, once in awhile, give out grants to traders. Have you really assisted the traders to take advantage of this?

When the Bank of Industry came into Akwa Ibom in 2017, they had so many issues with the traders and they called me for a discussion. During the discussion, I asked them: How much are you giving to the traders? They said between N50,000 to N60,000 as loan to support their business. They said the repayment duration was for six months and I told them that the traders will not collect because they were getting a better offer from Governor Udom Emmanuel. I told them the Governor is giving the traders between N500,000 to N2million as grants. I explained to them to take the money to those in nearby state who might have need for the money. What our Governor has done is unprecedented and there is no Governor in the entire country that has done that.
I want to use this opportunity to really thank the First Lady of Akwa Ibom State; she is the friendliest Governor’s wife. Over 2000 women have collected grants from her and many others have been given shelters through her pet project, Family Empowerment and Youth Re-Orientation Programme (FEYReP) and when I say women, I mean traders. Look at what she has done in Oruk Anam, she built an ultra-modern market (Urua Anwa) that has clinic, sub-police station and over 500 stalls.

Tell us about the ticket-free day initiated by Governor Udom Emmanuel. Is it for markets within Uyo or the entire state?

During the electioneering campaign of 2015, the Governor made a promise to the traders; he told them that he will make available the sum of N2billion as interest-free loan and he has fulfilled that promise. And this loan is revolving, every month we give out to different batches and this month we are going to give 4,982 beneficiaries. Every Thursday in Akwa Ibom is called Udom Bonanza day, that is ticket-free day and it is for all the markets in the state. The Governor has been so caring to the traders and this gesture earned him the most Traders Friendly Governor Award by the National Association of Nigerian Traders during the ECOWAS summit of 2017.

But traders within Uyo metropolis still complain of double ticketing. Are you doing anything in that direction?

First of all, I really want to commend the Executive Chairman of Uyo Local Government Council, Hon. Imoh Okon, because it’s not everybody that is entitle to pay for ticket in the market. For instance, if the capital and profit for those selling pure water and others selling petty things on the tray is N200 and you are asking them to buy two or three tickets of N100 each, are you being fair? So, when the Chairman came in, I advised him not to collect ticket from those selling pure water and petty things on the tray and he adhered to it and today the traders are happy. We are going to also solicit same from other Local Government Council Chairmen and I believe before the end of the year we will succeed in reducing the price of ticket to 30%.

How have you been able to handle the ‘Akwa Ibom Garri Union’ that posed a threat to the people of the state recently?

When the Governor received the information about the activities of some market unions within the state, particularly those in charge of the supply, distribution and selling of Garri, he immediately instructed me to step in. So, I discovered there were shoddy deals and unnecessary exercise of influence by the Garri union on non-members, which by extension affected the general public. To mitigate that effect, the Governor immediately dismantled the Union’s grip and brought into the market more truck-loads of Garri. And so far, he has revamped some of the Cassava Processing Mills in the state and today the story is different. Before now, the Union was collecting N250,000 from intending members but today it is free. The Governor has also sunk in over N100million to members of the Union to assist them buy more products. The First Lady has also assisted a lot through FEYReP. She has established Cassava Processing Mills in Ibiono Ibom, Okobo and INI Local Government Areas. This has really encouraged our people, particularly the women to go into massive cultivation of Cassava. The processing duration that used to take up to three days has now been reduced to three hours.

What informed the collaboration of your office with FEYReP in the construction of market stalls for women?

When I saw the passion of the First Lady in putting smiles on the faces of the people of the state, I keyed in the traders. We told her all our needs including market stalls, Palm Oil Mill, Cassava Processing Mill and all that and she obliged us. Today, she has kept to all her promises. So it has been a great and rewarding collaboration. Today, through FEYReP, we are about to commence another market at ONNA, Eket and Nsit Ibom.

What is your office also doing to assist farmers and traders within the riverine area who end up selling their produce to buyers from our neighbouring state at poor prices for lack storage system?

It is true we don’t have food preservation centres in the state but that is a thing of the past now. The First Lady, through FEYReP, has intervened in this regard. For instance, in Ibeno Local Government Area, we have an ultra-modern fish processing centre with equipment that can help the fishermen dry their fish and crayfish within few hours and We are commencing another one at Ibiaku Ishiet very soon.

Electioneering for 2019 is in top gear in the state. How prepared are the traders and what strategy are you putting in place for the reelection bid of Governor Udom Emmanuel?

The traders are thinking about 2023 because 2019 is a done deal for Akwa Ibom traders. In 2015, Governor Udom Emmanuel gave us several promises and today he has fulfilled all and the traders are happy. So, 2019 will be our reward and appreciation to the Governor for his show of love. The traders are not asking the Governor to come to the market to campaign for their votes. The traders are going to campaign for him and they are going to buy the nomination form for him. They have started the process already by opening an account called Udom Emmanuel 2019 with Eco Bank. So, for 2019, we are going to give N20million for his reelection, buy his nomination form and print his campaign T-Shirts. 2019 is certainly going to be a walkover for Governor Udom Emmanuel because there is no opposition for him. The traders in Akwa Ibom have 65% voters’ strength and they have vowed to give the Governor their votes, they will not negotiate 2019. We have 2,982 Coordinators in the state.

What is your message to Akwa Ibom traders?

My message to Akwa Ibom traders, particularly the youths, is for them to take advantage of what we have, the potentials and the enabling environment. People are waiting for the seaport, ExxonMobil Headquarters and I ask, if these things come on-stream, would your qualification, creativity and skill give you the advantage to work in these places? Why not take advantage of what you have at hand? If you have business idea that requires money for its actualization, come to our office and we will give you money to actualize.
Lets Adhere to the Dakkada philosophy of Governor Udom Emmanuel and our limit will be beyond the sky.

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© Ibomtelegraph.com

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