By Michael Nnebife
Hawkers of different goods and wheelbarrow pushers operating within and around Eke Awka Market have been lamenting the harassment and multiple levies imposed upon them by miscreants in the market on daily basis despite the order of the Anambra State Governor, Prof ChukwumaSoludo, late last year.
The wheelbarrow pushers and hawkers said they were forced to pay N600 daily, and N1, 600 every Saturday as levies in the market.
However, it will be recalled that Governor Soludo, in October 2022, gave compassionate waivers in taxes and levies for wheelbarrow pushers and hawkers in the micro small-business category in the state.
In a release signed by Chris Aburime, the Press Secretary to the Governor said, ‘Wheelbarrow pushers must not pay any fee in the state.
‘Hawkers shouldn’t pay any fees. These poor people should stop being harassed.This message is for the market unions. If they are found with any evidence, that union will be dissolved with immediate effect.
However, a pepper seller who identified himself as Sunday, said there was never a time he and his colleagues were given a waiver in levies.
He said sometimes, they were forced to pay in the morning when they had not made any sales which usually resulted in the seizure of their goods.
He added that if the seized goods got to the office, they were made to pay N3,000, or N5, 000 to get their goods back.
Also two groundnuts sellers (name withheld) said they paid N600 every day, and N1, 600 every Saturday for them to be allowed to hawk within and around the market.
A wheelbarrow pusher and a middle-aged man (name withheld) who hawk phone cover and accessories alleged that a cult group forced them to pay N1, 000 on Saturday, making the total money they spent every Saturday as levies, N1,600.
An ice-fish seller (name withheld) said she and her colleagues paid N1,500 each on daily basis since the present state government began and that no waiver was given to them. Instead, she said, it was all harassment and intimidation.
The visibly embittered petty traders showed various kinds of receipts with different titles which included, ‘Eke Awka Traders Union’, ‘Government of Anambra State of Nigeria’, Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) for Commerce/Tolls Fees’, among others, to Fides.
When contacted, the Executive Director, Operations, Anambra Internal Revenue Service, Dr Christian Madubuko, denied knowledge of payment of any levies by the petty traders to any person, stressing that the state government did not give any individual authority to print and sell any receipt on its behalf.
He said the people imposing levies on the hawkers and the wheelbarrow pushers in Eke Awka market were criminals.
While regretting that the petty traders and hawkers refused to report their experience to the government, DrMadubuko said, ‘Anytime we get such report, we swing to action and make sure the person involved is brought to book.’
He urged the victims and the general public not to keep silent but to bring complaints with evidence that would enable the government to arrest and prosecute the criminals.
However, efforts to get the side of the Eke Awka Traders Union’s Leadership were unsuccessful as the chairman was absent from the office as at the press time. A man identified as the chairman’s chief of staff, whom our reporter was referred to, declined to comment, saying the chairman had to give him authority to speak first before he could do that on his behalf.