The Anambra state government has ordered the immediate reopening of the Eke-Awka Main market, thereby giving respite to a beleaguered citizens of the state capital.
The traders had on Tuesday shut down the market following the refusal of most of their members, especially women to pay the sum of N6,000 ordered by the state government as annual flat tax for traders in all markets in the state.
Chairman of the state Board of Internal Revenue, Mr. Nwanne Ejikeme told journalists yesterday that the government decided to re-open the market after reaching agreement with the leadership of the traders that only those who had paid the tax would be allowed to continue their normal businesses.
He said that only few of the traders paid the tax within the two days the market was closed down and that in order not to continue to deny those who had paid the opportunity of carrying out their legitimate businesses government decided to rescind the order closing the market entirely.
Eke-Awka, which is the biggest market in the capital city with about 3,500 shops, provides the source of daily shopping for most residents.
Street traders were not affected by the tax policy, only those who operate in shops were expected to pay.
Though Secretary of the markets taskforce claimed on the day government closed the market that about 2,500 out of the 3,500 traders have paid the tax, the state commissioner for Commerce and Industry, Mr. Robert Okonkwo insisted that only about 500 of them paid.
Mr’ Okwudili Okeke, a trader in the market lamented that he found it difficult to feed his family with the period. He blamed his colleagues who were opposed to payment of the tax saying that it was necessary for them to support the state government
Women traders in the market refused to pay the tax claiming that “there is nowhere in the world where women are asked to pay tax by government”.
And to press home the women in their hundreds went to the Government House and state Assembly and staged a protest against the government policy asking them to pay tax.
But Okonkwo insisted that since the women are operating businesses in the state, using government facilities to make gains, they must pay tax to enable the government meet up its developmental obligations to the people of the state.
Meanwhile, Ejikeme indicated that arrangements were being concluded by the state government to take tax defaulters to court, adding that the law stipulates between three and six months jail terms for those convicted.