Thursday, July 18, 2013

Cameroon: Is Southwest Region Under Administrative Exploitation?

                             By Njousi Abang* 
    Recently the new Divisional Officer for Buea was on a meet-the-people tour.  On the date he was scheduled to visit Molyko, all the business establishments were forced to remain closed until he arrived late in the night for the meeting. As a consequence of this, a lot of business opportunities were lost. Employees and employers who transported themselves to and fro their workplaces wasted the whole day without opening their establishments despite the taxes they pay to do business all year round. In addition to this, employers were bound to pay rents and workers for no work done. On the other hand, inhabitants of the vicinity did not go to their farms because an injunction order by the Chief forbade them from doing so.  
   Similarly,  before Buea was chosen to host the celebration of the 50th anniversary of re-unification that never was, the Buea Municipality used to observed the first Wednesday of each new month as a day set aside for the inhabitants to clean up the town. Of late, the exercise has become a regular feature every Wednesday where all businesses, private and public establishments are shut down until after 12 noon. Take note that it is only the Head of State that has constitutional prerogatives to declare a public holiday. We have been held hostage by this regular occurrences with impunity.
   Intermittently, businesses and transportation of people, goods and services are constantly interrupted each time that a Minister, Governor, SDO or DO is on tour in this area. Recently, the out gone DO of Tiko on his routine visit to Mutengene in order to enforce this obnoxious orders, had to seize and destroy some bread that buyam sellams were selling thereabout.  This caused a lot of stir but nothing came out of it as the people buried their anger.
    On the average Inhabitants have been very reluctant to obey this rule because they pay taxes to the government, in order to do business, and Municipal authorities who have in turn hired HYSACAM to clean the town for them and dispose of their waste. Unconfirmed reports hold that billions of francs CFA are spent annually by the Buea Council to compensate HYSACAM for the work they are contracted to do on behalf of the population. Many inhabitants of the Buea municipality are beginning to question the role of HYSACAM and why they should be compelled to do work which they believe ought to be done by HYSACAM. Are we not paying for undelivered services? Are clean-up campaign days not just a trap to get defaulters pay huge fines to administrators? Where do the collections go to? Why MUST ordinary civilians stay off the road when a government official is passing by? Why MUST Civilians close down their businesses on some public holidays and special state events organized in their areas? Are some citizens more important than others? These are the questions on the lips of all and sundry.
   Experience shows that these actions of government and its officials knowingly or unknowingly disrupt businesses and infringe on citizens’ rights and freedoms. Economists claim that huge losses are incurred by civilians as a consequence. Citizens are becoming restless and uncomfortable with a lot of illegal collections and declaration of public holidays which make a lazy people to become so unproductive. Far from promoting a culture of hard work, government is accused of accelerating corruption and unproductiveness. 
    Mathematicians have worked it out too prove that an average Cameroonian works only three days a week. Most white-collar servants present themselves for work within this limited period but do very little. Those who depend on AES- SONEL for electrical power supply work less and suffer greater losses yet Cameroon goes on all the same. The situation is worse among farmers in traditional societies who have to obey native laws and customs which compel them to stay away from farms on ‘countri Sundays’ and those prohibited by unforeseen events. A majority of Cameroonians do not work but drink themselves to stupor while the burden of nation building and economic development lie on the shoulders of a few citizens who are quite often not recognized for the services they render. For instance, workers in the private sector have no way to join their counterparts to play, drink and smoke marijuana as it is the case with fellows who do not fall under rigid controls.
     If Cameroon MUST forge ahead, we need to engage the plough and work hard 24/24 and 7/7. We need to employ more workers to engage our machines fully. Workers need to work in shifts. Our banks need to function regularly and all round the clock to service those in need of funds to run their enterprises. A dysfunctional working platform or ATM machine can cost the company and customers a lot of stress.
 Cameroon has very poor work ethics. Many only become more serviceable when they have short-term gains to make. The administrators have to do much more to encourage and improve the work ethics instead of pushing the country more and more down the drain.
    Worried by this picture depicted above, some of us went down to the streets to determine whether Southwest Administrative Officials are helpful in this renaissance or not. Some people said No-o-o they are very unhelpful while others said YES they are. The latter ones who yes they are helpful were seen to be pro-government and beneficiaries of the system. This group said that there was no problem with the system in place. They claimed that most Cameroonians are corrupt and would likely do same if they had the opportunity. Furthermore, agents, who do the collections of fines, sell the pass to taxi drivers who desire to ply the roads during days set aside for clean-up and those who ensure compliance with administrative orders irrespective of their impact see nothing wrong with the bottlenecks imposed by the leaders who bar businesses and stop freedom of movement and interplay of economic forces in the market place.  In return for this, they score very high annual marks for personnel assessment. Similarly, those who do not fall under government payroll, receive their bonuses on-the-spot hence the more they collect the more they take home daily.
   The former group of people who question the legitimacy of government officials in perpetuating these obnoxious practices say that if the intention was really to keep Buea clean, then they would have been arresting and sanctioning those who do not clean Buea instead of blocking people from running their businesses even when their premises are clean. They go further to question why they carry out this practice only in Buea when they did not do same in other towns like Yaounde, Bamenda and Douala which is noted to have some quarters that stink of rot and dirt. One of the interviewees even threatened dragging the administration to court for forcing them to contribute for the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Re-unification when the councils and people of the Northwest and Centre Region did not contribute for the Grand celebrations of 50th Anniversary of the Armed Forces and Independence of Cameroon respectively. “What do they take us for- Fools?” he questioned angrily. “Why MUST Southwest be tasked to contribute towards the celebration of national events?” “Is it because the event is coming to our soil?” he inquired further. “Please, just take 1/1000 of Oil Royalties due this oil producing area and pay for the event and leave South Westerners alone” a desperate Ndian youth who was standing nearby quipped.
   Cameroon needs to rework on its work ethics and ways of doing government business so that it does not show open discrimination and exaggerated tendencies that can cause chaos.
*Njousi Abang is National Coordinator, People’s Action Party (PAP), Cameroon

No comments: