The traders said they make the payment to market leaders on Tuesdays and Fridays, which are the two days markets in the state are permitted to open.
“If you pay N5,000, they will let you open your shop. If you do not pay, you will not be allowed to open. Another option is to pay N2,000 and you will be allowed to open your shop and take some goods, which you can sample along the road and hustle for customers,” a source told this newspaper on condition of anonymity.The payment of the levy contravenes the order of the state governor, who during a state-wide broadcast said markets could open only twice a week but will be limited to only those dealing in food items.
The source said, “Even though only food item sellers are authorized to open by the government, the market leaders let anyone who wants to open shop do so, no matter what they sell, as far as they can pay the levy.”
Market officials who were involved in the collection of the levy when interviewed could not explain the reason for their actions but simply said they were acting according to orders from above.
Attempts by our correspondent to reach Mr. Uchenna Okafor, the state commissioner for trade and commerce, who also heads all the markets in the state for reactions, was not successful as his mobile phone rang out several times without an answer.
But traders in the market insist that the payment was unacceptable because even when they open, only a few customers come to patronize them.
They say many are unable to make profits to cover the payment as they have limited goods in the shops and cannot travel to replace their stock.