Benin – Protesters on Monday blocked the Uselu/Ugbowo section of the Benin-Lagos highway over plans by Egor Local Government Area of Edo to relocate traders.
The protesters, under the aegis of Uselu Market Women Association, were resisting the directive to move to lock-up stores built by the council.
The women, displaying placards, blocked both sides of the highway, preventing motorists from continuing with their trips.
Some of the women said the N1.2 million charged for the stalls was too expensive for them, especially given the type of businesses most of them do.
The women said their problem was compounded by the action of the local council, which commenced the removal of their make shift shops on Monday.
Mrs Celena Okon, one of the market women, described the council’s action ”as an act of wickedness”, in view of the current economic situation in the country.
“What am I selling that you will force me to pay over a million naira for a single store? I believe they should consider the worth of our businesses individually.
“Where do you expect a woman who sells only crayfish or tomatoes to get such a ridiculous amount of money to pay, when in actual fact most are in dire need of additional funds to grow their businesses,” Okon said.
Another market woman, Mrs Imade Osifo, who described the situation as pathetic, said their decision to barricade the highway was for the world to know what they were going through.
She said, “They want to force us to go into the stores and we have told them that we cannot afford the stores; that is why they are destroying our businesses.”
Mrs Osifo also alleged that the council was ”insensitive to them”, especially against the backdrop of the different fees levied to allow them do business in the market.
“When the plan to construct these lock-up stores came up, they (Council) told us that the prices will be pocket friendly, especially to some of us involved in petty trading.
“But what do we have now, N1.2 million for a store is a price that most of us cannot afford; there is no way many of us can afford that now.
“Even if the country’s economy was okay, how do you expect a woman who sells only salt and Maggi to generate such,” Osifo asked.
All efforts to get authorities of Egor local council to comment on the situation proved abortive, as the Council’s Head of Service was said to be unavailable.
When contacted on telephone, the Council’s spokesman, Mrs Prisca Ebvadiaro, said she was not in the position to comment on the matter.
“I cannot speak on this; there is a committee that has been set up and as such, I cannot speak on it,” Ebvadiaro said.
As at the time of filing the report, several motorists were stranded on the highway while other commuters have resorted to trekking to get to their destination.
The women resisted attempts by the police to get them off the road.