From Okey Sampson, Umuahia
Traders of Ngwa Road (New Market) have sent a Save Our Soul (SOS) message to Abia State Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, over alleged extortion by some people.
The traders, who alleged that some people who described themselves as government agents, have, for some time, been harassing and intimidating them to pay N2,000 fire extinguisher fees.
The traders claimed that, last year, the same group of people forced them to pay the same amount for the same purpose.
They wondered why they should ask them to pay again for the fire extinguisher, when the ones they paid for had not finished or expired.
The traders accused those involved in the illegal collection of the fees of using thugs to lock up the shops of those who refused to pay, and the said shops were only reopened after the payment of N5,000 penalty.
Mrs. Chinyere Ike of Line 21 said her shop was locked for not paying the N2,000 fire extinguisher fee, and was only reopened after she paid the N5,000.
Another trader who did not want his name mentioned for fear of harassment said he suffered the same fate.
The traders said they had, last year, obtained a court order, which restrained anybody from collecting any fees from them, other than stallage, scooping and security fees.
They regretted that despite the court order, some people still came to ask them to pay all sorts of fees and called on Ikpeazu to intervene.
Investigations revealed that with the number of stalls put at 5,000, the traders were meant to pay N10 million as fire extinguisher fees.