Chief Elisius Umezokwere is the chairman of new auto spare parts market situated at Nkpor in Idemili North local government area. In this interview with Uchenna Ezeadigwe, he discusses the state of affairs in the market as well as expectations from government.
Sir, which particular spare parts do you deal in here?
We deal on assorted auto spare parts; that is machineries, anything that has to do with engines and mechanics.
What challenges do you face in this new market?
We encounter normal challenges such as fluctuation in dollar exchange rate, dollar-naira ratio and clearing goods in the wharf; I mean, normal difficulties associated with the Nigerian system, that slow down importation, payment to suppliers outside the country and relationship with statutory authorities. Some of them are being looked into.
What is your opinion on the non-functioning of Onitsha dry port project currently going on?
The dry port is one area that will hasten business activities but we have to understand equally that government is being careful about it to ensure that all processes that will ensure easy operation are taken care of. With that understanding, we can see with the government and we hope that when these things take shape it will hasten everything.
One hears of illegal collection of revenue in most existing markets; do you experience such?
When you said you heard, I am quite sure you didn’t hear of auto spare parts markets; there is nothing like that in this market and it is our hope that it will not be in future. It is alien to us.
How do you tackle the issue of tax collection in this market?
For the government, through the normal government system, the Anambra state government has streamlined it which is very easy and very effective. Traders pay their taxes and the money goes direct into the e-payment system of the Anambra state government and everything is done transparently and you get your receipt from the government. We don’t issue receipt. Government issues receipt and the amount you pay is the amount government writes on the receipt and our duty is to collect the receipts from Awka and share it to the traders and it has been working very effectively.
Could you please tell us about the basic amenities in your market?
A lot of these social amenities are provided by the traders. As you are here now, if you want to visit the rest room, you will be surprised by the quality of convenience made available in this market. You will think you are going into a five star hotel rest room. So, as for water, it runs for 24 hours daily. We never lack water. We had toilet facility which the state governor, Chief Wiilie Obiano, is refurbishing now. One of the toilets has been completed 90 per cent. The roads are standard and some of them are tarred. When it rains, the flood is channelled to the proper drainage. Also, we adopted a system through which the area is kept clean. We are doing our best and we hope in our best for better delivery of services. Also there is electricity supply in the market which we try to ensure that it is steady in use.
How has the Buhari’s administration influenced your market activities?
Still the same way it affects everybody, I initially told you about the dollar-naira ratio, it is the highest part of it because anything you do here now is dollar based, exchange rate is too high, the way it hampers barrow pusher, the same way it hampers a manufacturer, obtaining materials is high, price of goods fluctuating still people don’t have that purchasing power to buy. So the economy is biting and the goods you see to buy get fewer because the factories keep shutting down. Also you begin to understand that the economic index is going down but then we continue to hope that the government plays their part for betterment of the future.
There seems to be road congestion during the evening periods as a result of traffic emanating from your markets. What are your plans to curb this?
You are perfectly right, and a lot is being done towards that by the state government. In that regard, the state commissioner for transport, Hon Uche Okafor, mentioned plans on decongesting this place, principal of which is the installation of a traffic light system at this new parts junction right under the fly over as well as the Tarzan junction. Also, there are on-going decongestion activities of vehicles blocking the roads at that Nkpor axis. So, I believe when this traffic light system starts working 80 per cent of traffic issue will be solved.
Is there any way you wish the government of Anambra state to assist you in this market?
Yes, like we have said earlier, the refurbishing of our rest rooms and removal of the waste bin depot in front of the market. It’s just this road at the back of the market and we have told him to make the road motorable for us. Once this road is done, we will do the rest.
Finally as the chairman of this market, what advice do you have for your members and what should be their expectations from you at the end of your administration.
I advise them one thing: they should be Godly. By being Godly, I mean they should be righteous in the way they go about their business. Also, they have to obey the law and the market rules and regulations. When they do that they must have played their role. On our part as the government of the market, we promise them what they are already witnessing – betterment by way of peace, by way of giving them the right environment to do their businesses as well as protecting their rights because traders have their rights also and we promise them that, by the end of this administration, they would feel happy and fulfilled that they have a worthy government in power.
‘we pray the Anambra state government to help refurbish our rest rooms … remove the waste bin depot in front of the market and make our road motorable for us.’