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Sierra Leone News: Traders complain of FCC Police harassment

Several months ago, the Freetown City Council prohibited street trading along 17 streets in the Central Business District (CBD). Amongst the prohibited streets are Liverpool Street, Bathurst Street, Wellington Street, and Siaka Stevens Streets. According to some traders along Abacha and Ecowas Street this ban has made life difficult for them and even more difficult as they claim that metropolitan police officers are harassing them every day where they are doing their little businesses. According to Isatu Kamara, a trader on Ecowas Street, “We are quite aware about the council ban, but all what we are asking is for them to show some understanding so that we can have our daily bread. Some of us are the bread winners in our various families and if such act is being fully implemented by council, how do they want us to survive.”  She pointed out that these officers normally seize their goods and then demand money for the return of the markets. If they fail to adhere, the goods are then taken to the FCC Police Headquarters on Wallace Johnson Street. She said if the market goods are there, they have to pay even more. She also said the Police often take different products from their baskets or trays and don’t pay for them. These payments are made directly to the FCC Police and, according to the traders, the money goes into their pockets. Another trader said, “We pay our taxes everyday to sell on the street. Why are we paying for these tickets when we are further robbed and abused by FCC Police?” Hawa Kamara, a small-time trader near the Post Office, said, “We have been paying, everyday, to the FCC Police to let us put our baskets and trays here. Some days they take things. Other days they just want money.” Kamara said she earns between Le10,000 and Le25,000 a day, which she uses to feed her child, pay for transportation and provide things for her sister’s home, where she stays. Another trader, Margaret Sesay, said, “The pressure we are getting from the officers is too much. They are worse than police officers because police officers show us some understanding.” She stressed most of the traders do very little business and basically only make a few Leones for their daily bread. According to a FCC Metropolitan Officer, who would not provide his name, “All what we are doing as officers is our work.” He said there are laid down rules and regulations governing their work, which the traders are not abiding by. He denied the allegation being raised by some traders that they are extorting money from them in order to sell in some of those street. “We are very professional and we are doing our work,” he said. Another trader, Issa Fornah, said, “We know we are violating the law and the officers are doing their work.” He called on FCC authorities to show some amount of leniency so that they can have their daily bread.

MJB/27/10/18

By Mohamed J. Bah

Monday October 29, 2018.

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