BY ENYIM ENYIM
ONITSHA — Market women in Eke Awka market in the Anambra State capital, yesterday, took to the streets in protest against imposition of tax on them by the state government.
The protesters who later marched to the state House of Assembly said they were asked to pay a minimum tax of N3,000 each, a development that did not go down well with them.
Some of the women who spoke to Vanguard said there was nothing to justify the imposition of tax on market women as it was the same reason that sparked off the 1929 Aba Women’s Riot. The women said the tolls and other market tickets given to them were enough.
Consequently, the Anambra State government made good its threat to shut down markets and commercial outfits in the state over non payment of the new tax, with Eke Awka main market as the first casualty.
Traders who came to the market as early as 7am were surprised to find police and other security agents barricading the gate to the market and also refusing anyone entry, claiming to be acting on the order of the state government.
At 8:30 am when all the traders including consumers have all arrived the market, trouble started, with some of the traders mobilizing themselves to Arthur Eze Avenue, the road leading to the market and barricading it, denying motorists the right of passage.
It was, however, learnt that the Commissioner for Special Duties, Mr Robert Okonkwo, who addressed traders in the market said only women who owned shops in the market were expected to pay the tax, adding that hawkers, roadside traders and others were exempted from paying the tax.
Meantime, it was gathered that the market women are planning to protest naked to the Government House, Awka as a way to attracting government attention to their plight.
An executive member of Eke Awka Market Women Association who begged for anonymity told Vanguard that the government has made good their threat of taxing women by locking Eke Awka main market over refusal to pay the sum of N3,000.
The source said the women were planning to embark on the protest if government refused to back down on the raid of their shops.
The Public Relations Officer of Awka South Market Amalgamated Traders Union, ASMATU, an umbrella body that oversees markets in Awka metropolis, Comrade Obi Ochije has backed the planned naked protest of the women if only to stop government from taxing women in the state