Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City
The ever busy Uselu-Ugbowo section of the Benin-Lagos Expressway was monday shut-down as market women from Uselu, protest plan to force them to move into the lock-up stores built by the Egor Local Government Area of Edo.
The protesting women who were armed with various placards and market tools, blocked the two side of the highway, thereby preventing motorists coming or going out of Benin.
Some of the women who spoke with journalists, said the demand for N1.2million per store by the local government authority was too expensive for them, especially with the type of business most of them does.
The women said their problem was compounded the more, when early yesterday morning, the authority of the Egor council started destroying the make-shift stores they have been using for years in the market.
According to one of the women, Mrs. Celena Okon, described the council action as an act of wickedness, especially in view of the present economy situation in the country.
“What am I selling that you will force me to pay over a million naira for a singly store? I believe they should be interested in the worth of our businesses as a single individual.
“Where do you expect a woman who sells only crayfish or tomatoes to get such a ridiculous amount of money to pay, when in actual fact, most are in dare need of an addition fund to grow their businesses,” she said.
Another woman, Mrs. Imade Osifo, who described their situation as pathetic, said their decision to barricade the highway was for the world to know what they are going through.
“According to her, “They want to force us to go into the stores we had told them we cannot afford. That is why they are destroying our businesses.”
Also, Mrs. Abieyuwa Osifo said the council have been insensitive to them, especially against the background of different levies they have been paying for them to do business at the market.
“When the plan to construct these lock-up stores came up, they (Council) had told us that the prices will be pocket friendly, especially to some of us involved in petty trading.
“But what do we have now. A price that most of us cannot afford. N1.2m for a store. There is no way many of us can afford that now. Even if things were okay, how do you expect that woman who sells only salt and Maggi to cough out such,” she queried.
Attempt to get authorities of the Egor council to react proved abortive as when contacted, on telephone, the council’s spokesman, Mrs. Prisca Ebvadiaro, refused to speak on it, claiming she was not in the position to do so.
“I cannot speak on this. There is a committee that have been set up and as such, I cannot speak on it,” she stated.
As at press time, several motorists have been left stranded on the highway, while those going to work, have resulted to trekking the distance.