IT TOOK the intervention of the Oba’s palace in Benin City yesterday for angry market women and traders at Uselu Market to vacate the busy Benin-Lagos expressway, which they had shut down in protest of demolition of their temporary shops located along the road. The women had earlier resisted pleas by some anti-riot policemen, after mounting road blocks on the road, to vacate the road but ended up beating up a police officer before the arrival of a palace chiefs. The Egor Local Government Council, which oversees the market, on Monday morning began demolishing the temporary shops after the traders defied its order to move into the ultra-modern lock up shops it was building for them. Chief James Ebose, the Eson of Uselu, on hearing the news of traffic build up along the expressway approached the protesting women with a plea to sheathe their swords. The women had earlier said they would do so at about 2pm, but reminded that the kingdom had a new Oba who was a few days on the throne, they offered to vacate the road immediately. Armed with various placards and market tools, the women blocked the dual
carriage way for over six hours, thereby preventing motorists coming into Benin from Lagos or those going out from doing so. One of the women who spoke to reporters said that N1.2million per store was too expensive for them, especially with the type of business most of them do. The women said the problem was compounded when early Monday morning, the authority of Egor Local Government Council started destroying their make-shift stores that they had been using for decades in the market. Spokesperson for the women, Mrs Cecilia Okoro described the council’s action as an act of wickedness, especially in view of the present economic situation in the country. “Many of us borrowed money from Lapo, some N30, 000, some N50, 000. What are we selling – vegetables and fruits – is that what you will force me to pay over a million naira for a single store? I believe they should be interested in the worth of our businesses as a single individual.” Another woman, Joyce Osaze said “where do they expect a woman who sells only crayfish or tomatoes to get such a ridiculous amount of money to pay, when in actual fact, most are in dire need of addition fund to grow their businesses.”