The economic and political contributions of market women in Nigeria’s diverse contexts have long been ignored and buried. Market women in the region we know today as Nigeria have, for a long time, been at the forefront of social transitions. But one of the leading and most pressing challenge faced by market women is the high taxation fee levied upon them either by the government or local market unions. Abouchiche market in Ibiaragidi Local Government Area of Cross River State is not left out of this peril as goods and farm produce are destroyed due to push back from market women for failure to pay.
In Pidgin English: “For this market dem dey collect ticket, when we come every day, Oga go come with him ticket, madam go come him own ticket and de thing wey we de sell ma sef no too comot road. When I carry like three (3) bags of garri so, dem go put me ticket here, put me ticket here, put me ticket here on top the 3 bags. But since as this Perfect Future come, dey no de do like dat again, everything don change” Veronica Njar, women market leader, Abouchiche.
Veronica Njar, a native of Ibiaragidi, Bekwarra LGA who is a market woman and one of the market heads in Abouchiche market. The market which is under the leadership of his HRH Chief Oko Ushie, have women and men coming from all LGA of Cross River State and beyond to sell their farm produce and other items of use. Though a market for all, women has been suffering under the tyranny of the market boys (Tax collectors) who come to collect tax levy for their goods; these boys will inflate the prices and force the women to pay, failure to pay or revolt against them will either result in market items being seized or damaged which is double the price of the levy. This victimization persists daily as women, and market heads have no voice to speak up against this illicit act for fear of being hounded by these boys.
In November 2021, Perfect Future International Foundation (PFIF) while working on the Women Voice & Leadership (WVL) Project in Abouchiche visited the market during her campaign and sensitization work to promote economic empowerment, the market which is one of the biggest buying and selling hub in Bekwarra LGA, have women as one of its major retailers among its largest population.
Part of PFIF intervention in the market is the introduction of the women peer education group. Learnings from the peer education sessions exposed these women to the need to have a voice and importance of tax registration with the State Inland Revenue. This strengthened the women who marched together with PFIF to the office of the Market Master to demand that these incessant levies be put to an end. After the intervention was carried out, the market master immediately ordered the market leaders to inform the women that ticket is now N50 for all goods as against the daily payment of N70 per produce and one channel provided for payment.
“I have told them to report to me immediately if anyone aside the delegated person come to exploit them or collect a levy from them for their goods, we will support the women of Abouchiche market in the best way we can” Mr. Akgwanyang Godwin, Market Master, Abouchiche Market.
Through this action, women in Abouchiche community now know the strength and power that lies in women coming together as a unit to fight a particular cause. With the knowledge gained from the peer education sessions, trainings and capacity building, women who are small business owner and petty traders can now speak out against exploitation and right abuse, advocate for women’s right at community level and champion the end of GBV against women and girls.
The WVL-N project is fully supported by ActionAid Nigeria with funding from Global Affairs Canada. Visit www.feministhub.com to learn more.