Market women from the Mile Three Market in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital, have staged a protest against multiple taxation, alleging that a leader of a task force established by the Port Harcourt City Council was collecting illegal levies from them.
The women in their hundreds on Wednesday, marched to the government house in the state capital to protest, pleading with the Governor to caution the City’s Local Government Council Chairman, Sunny Sam-Ejekwu, on the imposition on several new taxes.
The Punch reports that the Governor, since assuming office in May 2015, had sought to increase the amount of revenue generated internally within the state, leading him to levy several new taxes on traders.
However, the women from the market located in the Diobu district of the state capital, claimed the levies were too many and as such, punitive.
Lamenting that the extortion from a group suspected to be a task force established by the council, was impoverishing them, the women, who chanted war songs, caused a gridlock around Azikiwe Road.
The protesters beared placards with inscriptions “We no go gree,” “Pay-pay too much,” “Stop collecting chairman’s money from us,” and Save us from extortion and intimidation.”
According to them, “Each of us pays levies ranging from N1, 500 to N4, 000. The one that is annoying us and forced us to embark on this protest is the N2, 000 to purchase perfume for the governor.”
Gladys, a protester, said the governor needs to appoint a chairman for the market to protect them from incessant harassment and extortion from task force members.
She said, “The task force constituted by the government is using their position to intimidate us and extort money from us. They charge us money unnecessarily and they coin names for each of the money they want to take from us.
“Sometimes we don’t sell anything but they will ensure that we pay more than N1, 000 daily. We don’t make much in our trade but our small gains go into the government’s pocket,” Gladys added.
The Council chairman, Ejekwu, described the allegation of intimidation and extortion by the market women as blackmail and added that the claims by the market women were politically motivated.
He said he was not aware of any extortion in Mile Three market, promising to investigate the matter to find out the actual reason behind the market women’s protest at the Government House in Port Harcourt.
Confirming the incident, the Rivers State commissioner for Information and Communication, Dr. Austin Tam-George, said Governor Wike had ordered the arrest of fake task force members who specialised in extorting money from traders.
Tam-George, however, said there was no such levy for the governor’s perfume.