Traders at the popular Henshaw town beach market in Calabar, the Cross River State capital staged protest and shut down all manner of business transactions in the market over what they described as unreasonable levy purportedly from the State Internal Revenue Service.
The market, known in local parlance as Urua Esuk Nsidung is where large quantity of assorted fishes and bags of crayfish are sold in wholesale to retailers. These goods are brought from the Bakassi peninsular and other fishing settlements along the shores of Atlantic Ocean. Buyers from across the country patronize the market.
Henshaw Town Beach Market traders Association took to the streets protesting over exploitation of the traders by agent of Cross River State Government under the guise of market levies. The protesters who came on mass with placards with different inscriptions as, “We no go gree again ooh, we say no to waterfront into our beach, please save us from the hands of these extortionists. Henshaw Town Beach Market Traders Association say no to water front land Allocation Permit”
Part of the grievances of the traders were that even when these levies are paid to the government, no adequate security was provided to the traders in the beach market as hoodlums had at regular intervals unleashed attack on the traders during and after trading hours.
The aggrieved traders cried out to the state government to wade into the matter before issues get out of hand. Spokesman for the protesting traders, Evang. Boniface Adiafai stated that their protest was to express their grievances so that authority concern can get their problems addressed.
Boniface said, “Taxation at the taxation at the beach market is too exorbitant. Considering what we have been paying, they now brought another set of taxation for waterfront.” They tax us for bags of garri, they tax us for open shades and locked up shops with exorbitant levy”. He said that what angered him and his association’s members was that they on daily basis the traders used to part with cash as payment to enable them obtain tickets for different levies ranging from tolls, sanitation, royalty, security and taxes for crayfish bags.
One of the aggrieved women who sells species, Nkiruka Ita Iron-Bar lamented that taxes such as stand by levies and water front levies were illegal as the traders also pay some levies to the state government which they believed was genuine. She said “You carry market of 5000 only to pay 3000 levies to these so call tax collectors lamenting that if the extortion is not quickly check the capital out lay used by traders is likely to be lost to this so call tax collectors.
She said that 80 percent of the traders you see in the market were trading with monies gotten from loans from cooperative societies and micro finance banks which is gradually being swindled from the traders to the so called tax collectors under the guise of levies that come up with different names. However, one of the traders who spoke in anonymity claimed that apart from paying such multiple levies to tax collectors they also pay levies to the militants along the Calabar Channels each time they carry crayfish to and from Bakassi enroute to the Henshaw Beach Market for sale.
“That is why we are saying that the taxation is too much we want the government of Gov. Ben Ayade to hear this so that he can come to our aide. This is affecting our business because the money is too much. We cannot continue like this after. If we continue like this we won’t be able to pay house rent, pay school fees for our children. Taxation will end up sweep away our capital outlay”.
As at the time of fielding this report, it was learnt that government of Cross River State had through the Director General/ Chief Executive Officer CEO of Waterfront Infrastructure Management Agency (WIMA) Governors Office Calabar victor Effiong Okon written a letter in August this year to the traders at Henshaw Town Beach Market Association alerting them that the agency had not mandated any one to collect waterfront levy in its stead.
In the said letter dated August 6, and signed by Director General of Waterfront Front Mr. victor Effiong stated “The agency has not mandated individual or group to to collect any form of levy, tax, penalty fee among others on its behalf”.The letter also maintained that, ”His Excellency has strongly warned and is against this form of taxation on the poor and needy”.