Some women trading at the Ahiaukwu Market in the Umuahia-South Local Government Area of Abia State have protested against a new N16,000 levy imposed on them by the Olokoro Welfare Association for the construction of a uniform table.
They also threatened to go naked if nothing urgent was done on their complaints.
The women, during a peaceful protest on Thursday, displayed placards reminding the newly-elected executive of OWA of their duty to restore sanity in the market instead of introducing an overbearing taxation regime.
Led by Adanne Gbaruko and Chibuzo Ekeleme, the protesters marched to the palace of Eze Cyril Ogbenna, the patron and Chief Security Officer of the market, in Uzi-Amizi.
A trader in the market, who did not disclose her identity, lamented the huge levies imposed on them, which she said were no longer comfortable for them to pay.
She stated that most of the petty traders were widows with many children to train in school or skills acquisition centres, adding that some of the traders were tenants struggling to pay house rents.
The trader said apart from the recently introduced levy of N16,000 for iron tables, which they had rejected, they were also mandated to pay N2,000 daily for refuse disposal and N500 daily levy.
She alleged that the new executive gave a deadline of May 30 for the payment of the levy for the uniform table into the personal account of the new chairman at a microfinance bank in Umuahia South, or face an action that would not be favourable to them.
She said, “We cannot afford it; even the N200 daily levy, we find it difficult to pay as a result of low patronage. Members of the newly-elected executive of OWA were not elected for this.
“They were elected to correct the wrongs in the Ahiaukwu Market and Olokoro in general, where gangsterism and cultism have been the order of the day. We will have no option but to protest naked if no urgent step is taken to address our complaints.
“Your highness, we came to you because we believe that you are the only king in Olokoro that stands for fairness and justice among the other traditional rulers. We are not in your palace because we are annoyed or angry with you, but we are here to register our grievances with the hope that you will help us to solve the problem as our patron.”
Addressing the market women, the traditional ruler advised them to be peaceful and shun any action that could cause the breakdown of law in the community, even as he promised to look into their complaints.