Wednesday, February 24, 2016 1:43 pm
Okafor Ofiebor/Port Harcourt
Women in their hundreds from Mile Three Market in Port Harcourt, Rivers State have marched on Government House to protest the imposition on several new taxes on them including one for the governor’s special perfume.
Since assuming office in May, Governor Nyesom Wike has sought to increase the 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 Port Harcourt claimed the levies are punitive and too many.
The women, who chanted war songs, caused a gridlock around Azikiwe Road as they asked Governor Wike, to caution the Port Harcourt City Local Government Council chairman Sunny Sam-Ejekwu. They lamented the fact that the extortion from a group suspected to be a task force established by the council, was impoverishing them.
Although the women’s protest was peaceful, their placards had slogans which read: “We no go gree,” “Pay-pay too much,” “Stop collecting chairman’s money from us,” and Save us from extortion and intimidation.”
The protesting market women, said: “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 for governor’s perfume.”
A spokesperson for the demonstrators, Gladys said they were told the money would be used to buy perfume for the governor.
According to Gladys the governor needs to appoint a chairman for the market to protect them from the incessant harassment and extortion from task force members.
“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.
Mr Sam-Ejekwu, said he was not aware of any extortion in Mile Three market. He 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, however, promised to investigate the matter to find out the actual reason behind the market women’s protest at the Government House in Port Harcourt.
Dr Austin Tam-George, the Rivers State commissioner for information and communication, said there was no such levy for the governor’s perfume, adding that Governor Wike had ordered the arrest of fake task force members who specialised in extorting money from traders.