Traders in Benin protest against levies, demand international market
Thousands of traders yesterday shut down Benin City the state capital, which also serves as headquarters of Oredo Local Council demanding what they called anti-people police of the administration of Godwin Obaseki, alleging that their special levies have been increased by over 400 per cent from an annual average of N3,000 to as much as N50,000. They were drawn from major markets in the city.
Led by various market leaders from all the markets within Benin City, the aggrieved traders with placards of various inscriptions also accused the state government and Oredo local government area of alleged insensitivity as they want a reversal to the old levies of between N2, 000; N3, 000 and N5, 000 as the case may be, for each shop.
They marched through major streets of the state capital before converging at the Government House where the deputy governor, Philip Shaibu, said it was the right of the traders to express their grievances in line with democratic principles. He pointed out that the electronic revenue payment system through the 18 local government councils was the resolve of the state government aimed at making the councils more viable than what they used to be.
He invited the leadership of both the traders and Oredo council to a meeting with the state government on Monday next week and also promised that the administration would look into their complainants, especially, on the outrageous increases contrary to what they were paying to the state government. He urged them to be law abiding and conduct themselves in peacefully as they carry out their protest.
Spokesperson for the traders Sunday Ogbonnaya said, all efforts to prevail on the management and taskforce officials of Oredo council fell on deaf ears and therefore appealed to the state Governor to wade into the matter in view of biting harsh economic situation and poverty level in both the state and across the country.
Ogbonnaya said, “Sometimes last week, while we were in our shops going about our legal businesses, we were greeted by some officials from Ordeo local government with a demand notice to us that henceforth we shall be paying our yearly levy as Thirty thousand (N30, 000), Fifty thousand (N50, 000) and One Hundred Thousand naira (N100, 000) as against the initial amount we used to pay which was three thousand naira (N3, 000), FOur Thousand Naira (N4, 000) and N5, 000 respectively.”
“Sir, with all sense of humility and loyalty we are appealing to you use your good office to prevail on the local government to as a matter of urgency withdraw the outrageous levies given to us and treat us with equity and fairness just as our co-economic engineers like farmers, manufacturers and aa host of others are being treated.”
They reminded Governor Obaseki about his earlier resolve during the 2016 governorship election to ensure a gradual reduction in tax payments, adding that they “are law abiding citizens as we always cooperate with the government in terms of paying our taxes regularly, refuse levy, security levy, sign post levy, signpost and business premises levies.”
They further stated that the council officials had informed them that the law empowering them to collect the said levies had been in the state government gazette after it was passed by the State House of Assembly.
In a related development, a group of traders under the name Traders’ Welfare Union of Nigeria called on the state government to built an international market for the over 400,000 thousand traders in the state capital.
Speaking to journalists in the NUJ press Centre, leader of the group, Lucky Orukpe said from the levies being collected by the government from them, accruing revenue in one year would be able to build the facility.