Traders in Akwa Ibom populous market, Itam Market, on Tuesday, protested over heavy and multiple levies imposed on them by revenue collectors in the market.
The protesters, mostly women and children were seen carrying green leaves and chanting, “Ticket too much, we no go gree” trooping to the Government House located at Wellington Basset Way, Uyo, the state capital.
The leader of the group, Esther Ekott lamented that after paying for space at the roadside between the sum of N15000 to N45000 depending on the size were compelled to pay daily ticket of N2,400.
Mrs. Ekott explained that each person today was forced to pay N3000 development fee as against N2,000 they normally pay even without any sight of development in the market.
She said the high taxations and daily tickets had made mockery of tax holiday given to them by Governor Udom Emmanuel to cushion the harsh economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic urging government authorities to come to their aid.
Another protester, Ekemini said she sells vegetables and periwinkles and she was forced to pay N1500 to the revenue agents lamenting that her wares were earlier seized but was released when she borrowed money from someone to pay.
Ekemini, who condemned the mean and hostile process in the sale of the tickets alleged that a 16-year-old boy was beaten to death few months ago by the agents because the boy (deceased) was resisting them from impounding his goods since he could not pay for the ticket.
In corroboration, Mary, a fruit seller said in different occasions, she had abandoned her wares to the tax agents due to her inability to pay at the moment.
According to her, “There are some days, my total goods will be about N2,000, they will come and ask me to pay N1,500. If they carry my fruits I will just leave it for them and go home.
“Imagine all these children hawking periwinkle, water leaves etc. They collect five hundred naira from them, if they don’t pay, they will seize their market and sometimes beat them up. We can no longer bear this. The little gain we make every day go into tickets and nothing left for us to feed our children.”
Addressing the protesters in front of the government house gate, the Chief of Staff to the Governor, Ephraim Inyang, reiterated that governor Emmanuel meant well for traders thereby issuing tax relief for them.
He prayed for more time to look into the matter as the government was set to not just ensure that such incident never repeated itself but to bring the violators of governor’s directive to book.
Recall that in the early hours of Tuesday, economic activities in Uyo were halted due to protest by the minibus drivers over sale of daily tickets by National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW.
Passengers and other workers were seen walking long distances because the bus drivers withdrew their services pending when their grievances are addressed.
When the Police Public Relations Officer in the State, Nnudam Frederick was contacted, he confirmed the incidents saying that the protests were peaceful.
Nnudam said the protestors were closely monitored by the police to ensure no breakdown of law and order.
He, however, urged any group who decides to embark on a protest to involve the police so as to provide them with security and to avoid any form of hijack by hoodlums.
“It was a peaceful exercise, we closely monitored them to avoid breakdown of order,” he said.