In an act of protest against local government plans to close or relocate their shops, market women embarked on a demonstration on Monday in which they blocked off the Uselu/Ugbowo section of the busy Benin-Lagos highway.
According to the protesters, the Egor Local Government Area of Edo State has begun charging traders N1.2 million to purchase stalls. Authorities on Monday began to close down makeshift shops whose owners could not afford to pay the fee.
The protesters, organized as the Uselu Market Women Association, argued that the fee is too high for their small-scale businesses to afford, thereby forcing them to close or relocate their shops.
“What am I selling that you will force me to pay over a million naira for a single store? I believe they should consider the worth of our businesses individually,” said Celena Okon, one of the traders.
“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 dire need of additional funds to grow their businesses?” she queried.
Other protesters echoed Mrs. Okon’s frustrations, saying that such high fees would put most market women out of business.
“They want to force us to go into the stores and we have told them that we cannot afford the stores. That is why they are destroying our businesses,” said Imade Osifo. She added that the market women decided to block the highway in order to let the public know the hardships they are facing.
Mrs. Osifo also said that the government had assured the traders that the fee for the stores would be affordable.
“But what do we have now? N.12 million for a store is a price that most of us cannot afford. How do you expect a woman who sells only salt and Maggi to generate such money?”
Vanguard Newspaper reported that several motorists were left stranded on the highway and that the protesters resisted police officers’ attempts to remove them from the road.