HUNDREDS of women from Mile Three Market in Diobu, Port Harcourt marched to the Government House in Port Harcourt in protest against an alleged multiple taxation, which includes a tax for governor’s perfume.
The women, who chanted war songs, caused a gridlock around Azikiwe Road as they asked the State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, to caution the Port Harcourt City Local Government Council Chairman, Mr. Sunny Sam-Ejekwu.
The market women lamented 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, which read, ‘We no go gree’, Pay-pay too much’, ‘Stop collecting Chairman’s money from us’, and Save us from extortion and intimidation’, among others, conveyed their anger.
One of the protesting market women, who identified herself as Gift, expressed anger that the leader of the task force had been collecting various illegal levies from them.
Gift 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’. They said the money would be used to purchase perfume for the governor.
“The task force constituted by the government is using their position as to intimidate us and extort money from us. They charge us money unnecessarily. They coin name 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 1,000 naira daily. We don’t make much in our trade, but our small gains go into the government’s pocket.”
She expressed the need for government to appoint a chairman for the market, adding that such a leader will be able to protect market women from the incessant harassment and extortion from task force members.
“We don’t have a chairman in charge of the Mile 3 Market. If there is a chairman, we can take our grievances to him. I sell fish. When these task force people come, they throw my fish away and force me to pay N2,000,” Gift further lamented.
Speaking in his office, the Chairman of the Port Harcourt City Council, Mr. Sunny Sam-Ejekwu, said he was not aware of any extortion in Mile 3 market.
Sam-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.
When reached, the Chairman of Port Harcourt City Local Government Area of Rivers State, Mr. Sunny Sam-Ejekwu denied knowledge of the said extortion and intimidations.
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.
When contacted, the state Commissioner for Information and Communication, Dr. Austin Tam-George, said there was no such levy for the governor’s perfume.
Tam-George added that the state Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, had ordered the arrest of fake task force members, who specialised in extorting money from traders.