BALEKE MARKET TRADERS STORM IKA SOUTH COUNCIL PROTEST HIKE IN TARIFFS

 

It
was raucous and pandemonium at the Ika South Local Government secretariat,
Agbor on Thursday, December 10 2015, as the traders and Market Women
Association of the Baleke Market, Agbor stormed the council in protest of  the new tariff regime imposed by the council.
The angry protesters who were chanted 
songs like; “we no go gree” and save our souls”, described the new
tariffs imposed on their market stalls and open sheds as arbitrary and
draconian, and as such, sought an immediate and drastic reduction in the
tariffs.

            Ika Weekly was on hand at the scene
of the protest and spoke with one of the leaders of the market women
Association, who gave her name as Mrs. G. Ogboi. She stated that the
protest  was as a result of the
increment  in the tariff rate imposed on
market stalls, which she claimed was a quantum leap from what was
obtainable  in the recent past. “We, the
Baleke market women are vehemently protesting the new tariff regime introduced
by the local government, because it is very exorbitant and as such, we cannot
afford it. Before now,  the tariff for
locak-up stalls was 2,500 naira, which was later increased to N3,000 naira, per
annum. However, early this  year, news
began filtering over the planned increment of the tariffs. We therefore, sent
delegates to the local government council chairman, Hon. Fred Ofume, who
promised to call us and dialogue with us before making any changes in  the tariff system. Ever since that meeting,
we never hard from the council and we were shocked to our marrows when about 2
weeks ago we received a communiqué informing us about the new tariff regime
where lock-up stalls which was formerly N3, 000 naira now goes for N20, 000
naira, open stalls which was formerly N1, 500, now goes for N15,000 and
attachment stalls, formerly N500, now goes for N3,000. This new tariff rate is
unjustifiable and we will resist it in all totality.

            How can we pay such amounts for a market
without toilet facilities? Whenever we are pressed we have to make do with
plastic buckets orpolythenebags to urinate into. For  years the market has not received any
form  of maintenance. There is no
security to safeguard our goods, the roofs of most stalls are dilapidated and
leaking and whenever it rains, we have to protect our goods with plastic bags
to prevent the rains from destroying them. Even the sanitation  of  the
market is very poor as the local government does not provide for the cleaning up
of the market, thus making the environment filthy and unhealthy for us.

            Therefore, we are calling for the
immediate reversion of the tariffs to 
the old rates to forestall further actions by us”, she concluded.

            Upon further enquires,   it was discovered that the council chairman
was absent from office during the protest and attempts to get comments from the
deputy chairman, Hon. Francis  Ogini who
was seen trying to pacify the protesters, proved abortive as  he retained from speaking with our reporter.

            Meanwhile, the Ika South Council
Chairman, Hon. Fred Ofume, in his reaction said 
the new tariff was not meant to punish anybody but to boost the
Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of the Council. He said the decision to
increase tariff on  lock-up stores owned
by the council in CTC and Baleke markets was not personal as the councillors
representing the 18 wards in the councils legislative arm ratified it.

            Speaking further, Hon. Ofume posited
that owing to the dwindling federal allocations to local governments, the
council has decided to increase the tariff 
on locked up stores in CTC and Baleke markets from N2,500 to N20, 000 to
N25, 000 per annum, saying the traders should co-operate with the council since
their colleagues trading in the same economic environment in private owned
stores pay not less than N3, 000 per month and N36, 000 per annum. He lamented
that a trader who has goods worth millions of naira in his store pays
N1,128  per month as tariff to the council
contrary to what is obtainable in a sister local government where traders pay
between N36, 000 to N40, 000 per annum for locked up stores. He said the
council tariff was last reviewed 15 years ago, adding that the idea will help
to raise fund with which to build functional infrastructures in the markets.

            He argued that if a hawker could pay
N20 every Baleke market day, which amounts to N140 to N200 in a month and N1,
680 in a year, he wonders why a trader in a locked up stores should pay  lesser amount to the council. He therefore
called on the traders to co-operate with the council for the overall benefit of
all Ika South indigenes and residents.

            He added that gone are the days when
council revenue go into private pockets, stating that  his administration is out to impact on the
lives of Ika South indigenes and not to impoverish them. He therefore called on
the people of the Local Government particularly traders to co-operate with his
administration since it is out to better the local government.

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