Mayor of the Freetown City Council (FCC) Herbert George Williams has told a news conference on 7th January that he will respond to the demands made by traders of the Portee Market situated East of the capital.
Earlier on before the news conference, top executives of the Portee Market met with the Deputy Mayor wherein they highlighted that they are willing to pay the Le 400 only if the council could provide them with a market, clean their market daily and provide them with water, electricity, and good toilet facilities.
In the conference the Mayor admitted he will look in to their demands and see how he could address them.
Reacting to the scuffle on increase in market dues between the council and the traders, Williams said that when he took over the council in August 2008 they (council) held a retreat and in that retreat a decision was taken that there should be an increase on market dues from Le 200 to Le 500 in 2009.
The reason for the increase he said was because they wanted to embark on capital investment to take on many projects that will be of good to the traders and the city as a whole.
He stressed that, if we are to see Freetown develop it is of necessity for the increment, quoting sections 57 sub section A of the local council act which gives the mandate to the council to effect an increase.
The Mayor noted that, already majority of the traders are paying the Le 400 only some areas that are under the control of the Traders Union.
Before the decision of the increment was taken, he said that he held talks with the petty traders association and other stakeholders and it was agreed there should be an increase. Explaining further he said that, earlier this month at the start of the printing of the tickets the petty traders association issued a press release disassociating themselves from the increment.
“I engaged them again in a meeting and the price was reduced from Le500 to Le400, emphasizing that this is the limit no more reduction”.
Asked why the President of the Traders Union Pa Bureh was arrested, the Mayor alleged that, it was the Petty Traders President and some of his men who have been inciting traders not to pay their market dues and beating and harassing Council’s market dues collectors.
He was quick to say that Pa Bureh was later released on bail on Tuesday at the Central Police and two of his other men arrested again yesterday. Moreover, Williams alleged that according to some intelligence he received it was said that the scuffle has some political under tone. But he said that development does not have any political tone.
Accounting for how much money is generated from market dues he said that in 2008, council collected 723,371, 600 Leones. Out of that money Le 271,264,350 is spent on printing of tickets, Le 267,807,432 used for market staff, Le 346,143, 433 on structural rehabilitation and Le 47,580,050 on cleaning and other facilities, giving them a total expenditure of Le 932, 795,265 and a deficit of Le 209,423,665 for which they diverted funds from “other sources” which have not been made public.
By Abibatu Kamara and Emmanuella Kallon