By Steve Oko
Commissioner for Information who issued the threat in a release said that some misguided traders in the market who he alleged, had been benefitting from the age-long rot in the market were planning to disrupt the peace in the market.
Government which vowed that no amount of blackmail by any trader would stop the ongoing renovation in the market advised traders to cooperate with the developer in their best interest.
It also threatened to deal with anyone flouting Government directives.
The statement made available to Vanguard in Aba read in part: ” The attention of Abia State Government has been drawn to an orchestrated protest by some unscrupulous individuals masquerading as traders at Ngwa Road Market in Aba, who have apparently been benefitting from the age long rot in some of our markets and have become uncomfortable with the planned reorganisation and phased reconstruction of the market to serve our people better.
“This announcement serves as a warning to such individuals that any further disruption of the peace and order of the state will not only lead to the immediate and total closure of the market till further notice, individuals responsible for the disruption will also be visited with the full wrath of the law.
“Governor Okezie Ikpeazu has directed the approved developers, Messrs Peacock Urban Regeneration Limited, to ensure strict compliance with the agreed timelines and phasing of the work to avoid undue hardship to our people.
“Traders currently within Line 1-10 of the market are therefore advised to immediately move to alternative shops provided at Good Morning market as a temporary measure so as to enable reconstruction work commence today unencumbered while others from Line 11 should maintain their spaces in the market for now until otherwise directed.
“In addition to the above, Government has directed security agents, taskforce teams of ASEPA, TIMAAS and Aba South LGA to remove any article of trade or wares wrongly displayed along the reconstruction site of Ngwa Road, Aba, and ensure prosecution of anyone found culpable under the relevant laws of the state and Nigeria.
“While we recognize that some of our traders might suffer temporary disruptions as a result of our focused urban renewal drive, we are guided by the fact that the expected benefits will far outweigh the discomforts of today. We, therefore, call on our people to join hands with government and her agents in ensuring a better life for our people.”
Meanwhile, the traders have sent a Save Our Soul, SoS, message to Governor Okezie Ikpeazu over the exploitative activities of those they described as “thugs masquerading as revenue collectors” in the market.
The traders in the appeal, sought the intervention of the Governor over N6,000 compulsory levy imposed on them by the said revenue agents.
They said that the activities of the revenue agents were impoverishing the traders and called on the governor to wade in.
Spokesman of the traders , Mr. Linus Obi Chukwukere alleged that the revenue agents invaded the market with thugs and demanded that each trader must pay N6, 000 levy.
He queried the rationale behind levying traders to pay such amount of money at a time Government had said it would demolish shops in the market to erect modern ones.
The traders also accused the revenue agents of collecting levies from the traders without issuing them any receipt.
They doubted the genuineness of the revenue agents and pleased with the governor to investigate them.
His words: “We doubt the genuineness of these thugs that parade as revenue agents. The state government gave us notice that it would demolish shops in the market to erect new ones by the end of this month.
“We don’t think the same government will turn around and ask us to pay a new levy of N6, 000, different from the N18, 000 we were earlier asked to pay”.
The traders alleged that the modus operandi of the revenue agents was not in tandem with the stand of the state government concerning revenue collection.
“Government said all revenue payments must be made to designated accounts in banks, but the so called agents demanded we pay them cash without issuing us any receipt and anybody who refused to pay was molested”
The traders pleaded with Ikpeazu to save them from further harassment and molestation by the so called revenue agents.