*Anu Alice & Yemele Sarah
Most of the downturn in business is blamed on the current Anglophone crisis. Business has slowed down considerably, especially in the two affected regions. Both sellers and buyers are hard hit. They are crying, protesting in some cases.
People visit the market to buy in bulk only if there are rumours of an impending lockdown. This is what a “buyam sellam” said of it:
“Business is not moving at all. If I tell you that business is okay then I lie. Look at my onions; before I would have sold all this, but now look at it standing here. I have even sold a bit today because of the news of the lockdown, so people are forced to buy and stock and even as they buy, some keep it and it will still get bad because the lockdown can be cancelled within the process.
“Before the crisis erupted, I could sell 50 bags of groundnuts in one week. But now, I am most likely to sell the same amount for more than a month because those who use to buy 1/4 basin of groundnuts and come back after one week to buy another now come only after one month. This has also affected those I buy from in Douala because they also complain of bad market. But I thank God for the one I have sold today.”
Not only is the unfortunate issue of “bad market” disturbing the people, that of breaking sheds in the name of building stores without considering those who cannot afford to build them. Some market women show their grievances like Mama Queen Njobui Pauline who said that many people have applied to build. And she wonders what will happen to the traders who are selling on spots that have been sold off.
“Like me, where I am here, I know is that they have sold it out to people who have money. They are the ones who bought it. Like I who was here, I had my shed here they have removed me and I’m outside and if they want to talk about those who started this market… We had to fight that they should let us sell here. But we have lost out, because those who have money have bought the place. And those who now own the place have asked us to leave; I don’t know what to do now.”
“Does that mean you will not sell again,” we asked her?
“We could go and sell in front of the market but the council keeps sending us away. But I can say we are the ones who started this market just the few of us who started this market, just a few of us will march to the DOs office, to the chief because mothers were crying that they do not have money because if you have your FCFA 600 to walk and go to the central market it is expensive because they have moved the market to central market so this bakweri women cry to no avail. “We first got angry and went to the graveyard at Buea town. We also went to Likoko to the burial ground then we said no! And they saw it as we sat at the burial ground, crying out our hearts. Our business elsewhere had started functioning; then they brought us here that we should be selling inside the OIC market and we started growing in business. They came again and shared places for us to be selling on. We paid money and they gave us receipts. After that as those who have money saw that the market is functioning well, they have come now that they want to build the whole market and that is what they are saying.
“They have scattered all this line round and they have given us notice to leave this place and we are just sitting here because we do not have any other place to be selling in the market.” Asked why she doesn’t show her receipt to them as proof that they have the right to operate from that spot, she said, “all of us have receipts that they gave us to sell here. We had sheds here. See, I have scattered my shed here like five times. Today they will say leave, tomorrow they will say build. All of us here we have scattered and built this shed and we are tired.
“But we are saying that now that they have given this line out, they should look for a place and give us to ‘manage’ but they have said nothing. The thing is if they fight and occupy all the market with all these houses, people selling foodstuffs will run away from the market; they won’t have a place to sell and they will run away from the market. This is exactly what happened in Buea town market. Buea town market was booming, houses were not there but now that they have occupied it with stores, people ran away from the market.
“Even those who have the shops also suffered because people are no longer entering the market. As they are building here, people will also run away from this market. If it gets worse here, I will park out and I won’t sell here again because we have cried that they should give us another place since they have removed us from here and they have said nothing. ”
Other than this, others also express some remorse for the action of the council. Like certain Sarah says: “the council keeps sending us away from here and some days they will let us sell here like today. But they are confusing us like they will also ask us not to sell here but if they see us selling, they will give us tickets and later on they will send us away. As they want to build the market I will stop selling here. I will go and sell in front of my house. I will not pay a ticket and at times they will come and scatter my tomatoes and I face the loss.”
The OIC market in Buea has become a scene of confusion. Because it practically encroaches into the main boulevard of the town, overcrowding here on market days poses a serious social problem. Avoidable accidents during which lives have been lost especially from recklessly driven army personnel carriers are recorded on a regular basis. With no parking lot for taxis and other automobiles, “buyam sellams” suffer to get their goods into the market or car park. A certain “buyam sellam” by name Stephan noted:
“We can’t enter the market with a car because everywhere is choked up. Others selling have refused and if you have something to put in the market with a car, you either come early in the morning or in the evening when the market has closed. What type of thing is this! But we pay tickets every market day. The other day the council seized my wheelbarrow of mesh for displaying by the road because I don’t have a place to put it in the market.”
Visitors to this market are very victims of municipal police who routinely block their cars against a FCFA official fine or a lesser amount as bribe. With no clear cut demarcation or indication of where one is free to park, the council policy is seen by many as a deliberate trap to attract revenue for it or bribes for its lurking corrupt officials.
UB JOURNALISM STUDENT ON INTERNSHIP