By Ugochukwu Alaribe
Following the protest by market women at the Eziukwu Market, Aba, Abia State, over the payment of N18,000 levy by some traders, the state government has explained that the amount was an agreement between the traders and the state government.
Commissioner for Trade and Investment, Dr. Cosmas Ndukwe, told Vanguard that the N18,000 is the consolidated revenue from about seven levies ranging from tax, stallage, sanitation to security, previously charged the traders by different government agencies.
He explained that the traders have no reason to protest because they are allowed to pay the levy in installments.
In his words: “The N18,000 levy came as a result of the agreement between the state government and the traders to consolidate revenue instead of allowing different government agencies to be harassing the traders for the various levies they collect.
“The N2,000 and N2,500 levies the traders said they have paid are part of the N18,000. All the levies were bundled into the N18,000.
“It was made easier for them that if you can’t pay the N18,000 at once, you can pay in installments.
“The stallage, sanitation, security levies are built into the money. It contains about seven revenue subheads, including the reduced tax of N3,600, sanitation fees, PPDF, business premises, fire service charge, market security, maintenance of drainage channels and annual stallage fees.
“The charges are for shop owners and not petty traders. That amount was agreement reached by marketers and Abia State government in 2016, when the law on consolidated revenue structure was made.
“The government did this to avert unnecessary harassment of traders in the market and it was agreed by the traders. One thing about them is that people know how to go about with propaganda.
“The government made it convenient for the traders; the money is not even paid in bulk and no one has ever forced the traders to pay in bulk. In the first quarter, you pay a minimum of N6,000;, second, N6,000 and you complete it by third quarter.
“And the N18,000 is an annual payment. The problem is that some of the traders don’t want to pay a dime.
“If you don’t pay for security, how will the security people secure the market? We have all manner of security formations in the market; the local ones, the vigilante and the Police.
“It is unfortunate if they are describing the N18,000 as illegal fee. The levy doesn’t in any way fit into the word illegal because the money doesn’t go into anybody’s pocket. It is receipted.”
Reminded about the allegation that the traders’ shops were sealed by soldiers, the Commissioner said: “If they are talking about the locking of their shops, it was not even the market officials that did it.
“Visit the market; there are no soldiers. You will also confirm that it was policemen that came from the state. It is unfortunate that they have money to hire people for protest instead of paying the levy.”