Federated Foodstuff Dealers Association of Nigeria, FFDAN has announced its stoppage of evacuation of all farm produce and other food items from Benue State until issues of alleged illegal levies and harassment of members are settled.
National President of FFDAN, Prince Christian Afiaunwu told newsmen in Enugu, weekend, that his members had been facing several problems especially in Benue State.
He said: “In Benue State the kind of levies imposed on our members are so much that we can’t bear it any longer. In 2013 we had an understanding with the Benue State government that the amount we had to pay as levy for a lorry load of goods was N17,500.
It was also agreed that this money should be paid at the point of loading. “Unfortunately since 2015 the state government flouted the agreement claiming that they were not the ones we negotiated with.
What they now do is that even if you buy the goods from another state, you must pay N62,500 once you get to the first boundary in Benue.” Afiaunwu recalled that series of complaints from the association caused the Federal Government to mandate all states to build a functional control post where veterinary and other checks are carried out.
He claimed that in Benue State there were over 40 points where levies were collected, saying “Every village has its own collectors and once they are there on the road you have no option than to comply or they will rob and assault you. At the end you spend over N200,000 in the state alone.
A lot of our members have lost their lives to these hoodlums while others have been maimed. Chibuike Okafor, a member from Owerri now has one leg because they drew him down from the lorry and his leg was crushed as he tried to get up.
“We discovered that government officials produce receipts and send these boys to the road to make money for them. Severally, we have written to the governor, state assembly, Board of Internal Revenue and the Police but they didn’t do anything. At a point we got policemen from Force Headquarters but the boys attacked the policemen and destroyed their vehicles and up till today nothing happened.
“We want Nigeria to know that whatsoever is happening in Benue State is caused by the government. We are also calling on the Federal Government to intervene because it is not our wish that the people should suffer.”