No fewer than 400 market women at the Abakpa Main Market, Abakaliki, on Wednesday, protested against alleged fake shop allocations by government agents.
The traders also protested against the alleged plan to relocate the market to the new Margaret Umahi International market.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that some of the protesters, who were half-naked, were said to be members of the Market Women Association in the area.
They were however restricted from marching to the Government House, Abakaliki, by security operatives.
NAN recalls that the state government had fixed February 10 as deadline for the relocation of the market.
The traders, who were determined to make their grievances public, proceeded to the residence of the Catholic Bishop of Abakaliki Diocese, Most Rev. Michael Okoro, at the Pastoral Centre, Mile 50, Abakaliki,.
The leader of the protesters, who identified herself, simply as Mrs Nwode, said they came to seek the intervention of the bishop over their plight in the hands of the state government.
Mrs. Nwode alleged that government had concluded plans to evict them from Abakpa main market “without proper and alternative arrangement for them.”
She also alleged that the new international market, which the state government said was meant for them, “has been sold by the same government to people who are not traders in Abakpa main market, in spite collecting money for forms and taxes from them.
She said: “We are the real market women from Abakpa market, not the political market women that were always heard on radio.
“The governor asked us to buy form6 for the shops at the international market for N50,000 and N30,000 for tax, which many of us paid.
“The governor also instructed the acting Chairman of the market, Peter Oba, to move us to the new international market but he did not give us shop there.
“We urge him to reduce the price of the shops for shop owners at Abakpa as compensation but he refused.
“He told us that shops will be given to the market women but we are the real market women in Abakpa and no single shop was given to us.”
Meanwhile, the bishop’s Secretary, Rev.-Fr Emeka Obunna, urged the protesters to articulate their grievances in a paper and assured them that the bishop would wade into the matter.
The Special Assistant to the Governor on Internal Security and Urban City, Mr Nchekwube Anakor, while addressing the traders, who later made their way back to government house, told them to submit a comprehensive list of those who bought forms and those who did not.
Mr. Anakor also asked them to submit a list of those who had yet to pay so that government would address their issues.
The women displayed placards with various inscriptions, such as “Abakpa main market women say no to intimidation” and “widows in Abakpa are denied their rights.”
Others include “many have died of heart attacks, Government is not sincere in its relocation plans,” amongst others.