Calabar — THE CROSS River State government has suspended the non-compliance levy imposed on cocoa farmers in the state.
Accordingly, the State Commissioner for Agriculture, James Aniyom, in a text message made available to some newsmen, directed the immediate suspension of the levy saying, "Director of Produce, please commence the immediate grading of cocoa and allow merchants lift their produce. The non-compliance levy has been suspended till the outcome of the stakeholders meeting on Tuesday".
The lifting of the ban was coming barely 24 hours after the state chapter of the Cocoa Association of Nigeria embarked on a peaceful protest in Ikom on Thursday accusing the state government of not issuing check test certificate for movement of their shipment out of the state over their refusal to pay a non-compliance fee.
Chairman of the association, Alphonsus Nana, said it all started when the body and 56 others filed a suit against the state government for interfering in the affairs of cocoa merchants by subjecting them to payment of illegal levies through an equally unconstitutional body called Cocoa Technical Monitoring Commission.
He said, "out of frustration, we went to court and we have been in court for over two years. Eventually we were granted judgment, as soon as we got judgment, we thought we are going to enjoy it, but they rush back to the same court and filed a motion for state of execution and at the same time filed an appeal and we responded.
"We had to wait for the court to hear the motion and the court struck it out on the 4th of this month. Now that it is struck out ,we have been briefed by our lawyers that there is nothing stopping us from exercising our right now. We are supposed to move with our cocoa, but now they have decided not to even give us our check test certificate."