Policemen in Asaba, Delta State, on Monday teargased Ogbeogologo Market women numbering over 50 while protesting the planned demolition of their shops.
The women were also demonstrating against a request by the state government for them to pay N6m each to acquire new spaces to sell their wares.
The protesting women, who barricaded the market along Nnebisi Road, accused the Oshimili South Local Government Chairman, Uche Osadebe, and Commissioner for Trade and Investment in the state, Chika Ossai, of bias and making life unbearable for them.
The market women appealed to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa to stop the planned demolition as there was no way they could afford N6m for new shops in the market when the reconstruction was completed.
Speaking with our correspondent, one of the protesters, who simply identified herself as Mrs Blessing Monye, lamented the situation, saying, "We just resumed our businesses after the lockdown. Before, we were coming here three times a week, it was just last month they asked us to be selling everyday. When we resumed, we found out that Governor Ifeanyi Okowa and his people had.demolished some of our shops.
“They are asking us to buy a shop for N6m. We don’t have that kind of money. Where do we get it from? We voted him in and he was supposed to listen to us. His commissioner, Chika Ossai, he sent to us to look into all the whole issues is biased and had refused to listen to us. We are not saying he should not develop the place. He should give us alternative if he must. We sell tomatoes and vegetables. Where does he expect us to get N6m from?”
A few minutes into the protest, a police truck stormed the scene and officers started firing teargas at the women.
Reacting to the incident, Ossai described the women's protest as mischievous and baseless.
He said, "Nobody asked them to pay N6m per shop. To the best of my knowledge, the shops are being allocated for N1.5m, N1.7m and N2.1m depending on your terms of payment.
"In a bid to resolve all the issues at the market, my office has held series of meetings with the representatives of the market women, investor and Oshimili South LGA Chairman and several resolutions had been reached and signed.
"About the said demolition, an alternative place have been provided already, so their protest is baseless and mischievous."