Female traders of Eziukwu Market; one of the popular markets in Aba, Abia State, numbering over 200, have taken to the street to protest what they described as the imposition of N18, 000 levy on them by the state government.
The women who stormed the Nigerian Union of Journalists, NUJ, office in the commercial nerve of the state, under the aegis of Zone 26 Traders Association, stated that despite all their entreaties to make the market authorities reduce the levy failed on deaf ears as they (market authority) insisted that the levy came from the state government.
Leader of the protesting traders, Rebecca Njoku, who listed the affected zones to include 26, 14, 9 and 15 that they decided to embark on the peaceful protest to the NUJ center as part of their efforts to bring the attention of the government to their plights, hoping that the government would listen to their cries and rescind their actions.
She further claimed that instead of the zonal chairman of the market to find a way to help them beg government to have a change of mind in order to ameliorate their suffering, he went and locked their shops and invited soldiers who have been parading the market.
She described the N18, 000 levy as outrageous, stressing that the total value of some of the traders’ wares cannot be up to the half of the levy.
Njoku disclosed that they had taken the matter to court who ordered the market authorities to unseal the shops, but until the time of the protest, their shops are still being locked by the market authorities.
In her words; “The market chairman issued a circular that we are going to pay N18, 000, after we had N2, 500 for central security and N2, 000 for zonal security.
“He mandated every shop to pay the levy, but we approached the zonal chairman telling him to reduce the levy to enable us pay.
“When we resumed at the market yesterday, we discovered that our shops have been sealed off.
“They used rope and planks to tie off the entire area of zone 26 and other zones who took them to court.
“They also invited soldiers who has been guarding the area and threatening us.
“The market taskforce has been threatening us. We have met the soldiers parading the market and they told us that somebody sent them and that we should go and meet with appropriate authorities to ask them to leave the market.
“After the court hearing yesterday, the Judge ordered the central chairman to unseal the shops.
“We removed the planks, but we resumed the next day, they sealed it again.”
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As at the time of filing this report, the Commissioner for Trade and Investment, Dr. Cosmas Ndukwe was yet to respond to text messages and calls made to his mobile number.