The traders in Enugu State are expressing concerns over a significant increase in stallage fees imposed on them for occupying spaces and stores in various markets throughout the state. Stallage fees are essentially rent or fees that traders pay to the local government areas where the market is situated. These fees are meant to cover the cost of maintaining the market infrastructure and providing services to the traders.
According to the traders, they had previously been paying a fee of N2,600 to their respective local government areas for the use of market spaces. However, they are now faced with a recent directive from the state government that mandates them to pay a much higher fee ranging from N21,000 to N72,000. This represents a substantial increase in their operating costs, and it has understandably raised concerns among the traders.
The traders are likely worried about the financial burden this significant increase in stallage fees places on their businesses. Such a substantial fee increase could affect their ability to operate profitably, potentially leading to higher prices for consumers and even challenges in sustaining their businesses.
The reasons behind this fee increase and the response from local authorities or government officials to the traders’ concerns are not mentioned in the provided information. However, it’s common for local government authorities to periodically review and adjust fees to align with the cost of maintaining market facilities and providing services. Traders often expect transparency in such fee adjustments and may seek negotiations or clarifications with local authorities to ensure that the fees are fair and reasonable for their businesses.
The first announcement was made to the traders at the Ogbete Main Market, in Enugu, where shop owners were told to pay stallage rates directly through the State Inland Revenue Service, rather than the Enugu North Local Government Council.
On Wednesday, October 11, 2023, authorities from the state government were reported to have visited the various markets in Nsukka, where it was also announced that fees for shops have increased from N2,600 per annum to between N21,000 and N72,000, which the traders find unrealistic and too astronomical given the prevailing economic climate.
It was gathered that the traders, who had already paid the rates for the 2023 fiscal year, were being compelled to pay the new rates, a development that has not gone down well with the people.
Operators in the various markets who spoke to our correspondent said the government has also refused to explain the reason for the extra rates.
Under the 4th Schedule of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, the main functions of local government councils were listed to include, among others, collection of rates, radio and television licences, establishment and maintenance of cemeteries, burial grounds, and homes for the destitute or infirm; licensing of bicycles, trucks (other than mechanically propelled trucks), canoes, wheelbarrows and carts and establishment, maintenance, and regulation of slaughterhouses, slaughter slabs, markets, motor parks, and public conveniences.
One of the traders, who preferred anonymity, said the demand by the State government was insensitive, wondering why the government would hike fees at a time the traders were hardly making enough sales to break even.
“Since I came to this market as a child helping my father to sell crayfish, we have not paid any fees to the state government. Local government areas are in charge of markets.
“Look, even if the state government has changed the constitution and can now collect market rates and levies, just take a look at all of us here; do we look like we are making sales that should justify such an increase in rates?
“We don’t have a problem with paying the rate to the state if that is the new law, but the increment is insensitive; the government should retain the old rate; various governments are talking about palliatives but they want to slam an arbitrary rate increment on us,” he lamented.
When contacted to speak about the development, the state Commissioner for Information, Mr Aka Eze Aka, said the state government has a policy to rejig its revenue services.
The Commissioner maintained that the revenue service was geared towards harnessing all possibilities of increasing its internally generated revenue without hurting the people.
He said, ‘‘Enugu State government has a policy to rejig its revenue services, and this revenue service is geared towards harnessing all possibilities of increasing our internally generated revenue without hurting the people.
‘‘You know that so many things have increased, including the water that we drink, prices of things are going up. So there is a need to review these prices.
“That is what Enugu State is doing. It is a process we are undergoing. And the process is not yet completely done. So, with time we will also be getting exactly those things.
‘‘We are also going through e-ticketing. We are also going through a process where people get the value of what they are paying.
“There is a need to rejig these things to improve them, to upgrade them such that they can be more in tune with what is happening.’’
The state Commissioner for Information, Mr Aka Eze Aka, acknowledged the need for the state government to enhance its revenue-generating processes. He mentioned that the review of prices and the introduction of new systems, such as e-ticketing, were part of the government’s effort to improve revenue collection without unduly burdening the people.
The situation calls for open communication and a transparent explanation from the government to the traders about the reasons behind the fee increase. It is crucial for the authorities to consider the economic conditions and the impact of such fee hikes on the traders’ livelihoods, especially during challenging times.