By Samuel Oyadongha
Yenagoa—Market women at the ultra modern Swali Market in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, have vowed to resist what they describe as alleged plan by the state government to use soldiers to dislodge them from where they earn their living.

The women, who raised the alarm weekend over an alleged move by government to throw them out from the market, lamented that the Ministry of Commerce and Industry had collected over N6,000 from each trader under the guise of providing them with market stalls after their shops were demolished during President Umaru Yar’Adua’s visit to the state in June this year.

Shortly before Yar’Adua’s visit to Yenagoa, all the traders had been evacuated and moved to a swampy area of the market, which was sand-filled to enable them carry on their business without disturbance.

Led by Mrs. Alaye Japhet, Mrs. Ikiokere Jessy, Mrs. Christiana Guembe and Mrs. Ereremi Jombo, the worried traders told newsmen that they were arrested and detained on trumped-up charges of forgery but noted that the quick intervention of the state Commissioner of Police, Elder Onuoha Udeka, saw to their release.

They alleged that after paying the N6,000, the ministry went ahead to allocate the market stalls to non-traders who were civil servants and other known supporters of the Peoples Democratic Party.

The women said they would wait for the soldiers the commissioner had threatened to use to throw them out from their current roadside and other makeshift sheds around the ultra modern market.

“Let them use the army to flog us again or take us to the police station, we are not going from that road. How can the commissioner collect money from traders selling fish, garri and pepper by the road side to build stalls in the market and then give the stalls to people who are not traders?” The women queried.

“The ministry collected N2000 per table top to sand fill the place, but due to the heavy rains this year, we had to move out of the place because it was no longer safe. That is why we are now on the road side,” the traders said, adding that they were again made to pay another N400 each.

They appealed to Governor Timipre Sylva to cancel the allocation in the interest of justice.

This claim was, however, dismissed by the Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, Ibomo Kenigua, who said the women were illegal traders who wanted to thwart government’s development efforts.

“We have assisted these women enough. It’s only in Bayelsa people carry out illegalities like street trading and then rush to the press. We used the JTF to evacuate them shortly before the president’s visit and the JTF was not rough with them,” he said.

Kenigua said the traders had been warned that the N2000 application fee was non-refundable and that allocation of stalls was not automatic.

The commissioner denied that he collected money through proxy from the traders.
“I cannot tell you how the allocation was done on the telephone. You have to come to my office. It’s not everybody that collected a form that will get a stall. I am not God; I cannot share 610 stalls to I.5 million people,” he said.

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