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Abia Govt/Ahia Ohuru Traders Legal Battle: Presiding Judge Hands-off

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Justice Uche Enwereji of High court 4, Aba, Abia State has withdrawn herself from the legal battle between Abia State government and Ngwa Road Market (Ahia-Ohuru) traders.

It will be recalled that the Ngwa Road Market traders had on October 18, 2017, taken Abia State government to court and joined the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Commissioner for Solid Minerals and Environment and the Aba South Local Government Chairman over exorbitant levies and imposition of what they termed illegal taxes.

Justice Enwereji who had initially directed the state government to dialogue with the traders with a view of harmonizing levies payable, had on several occasions given the warring parties opportunities to settle out of court.

She however took the decision to withdraw from the case on Thursday, November 1, 2018, stating that her decision was made to save the image of the court.

The judge’s withdrawal from the case followed an observation raised by the counsel to the plaintiff; Mr. Victor Agwu to the effect that government defiled the court order by using the Bakassi Boys to harass and intimidate the traders on the payment of certain levies which the court had directed should be harmonized.

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The defense counsel, Mr. Ogwo Uko however told the court that it was the traders that had not kept to the court’s directive as they went as far as misquoting the judge in a radio announcement they placed in a radio station based in Aba and staging an open protest against all levies.

The submission of the defense infuriated Justice Enwereji who drew the attention of the leaders of the traders involved in the suit to the allegation of the defense counsel. However, despite the fact that the traders’ leaders denied the allegation, Justice Enwereji decided to withdraw from the case saying that she cannot stand and watch anyone trying to bring the court to disrepute by misquoting her court wrongly and misinforming the public on the directives of the court.

She however transferred the matter to the Administrative Judge, who will re-assign the case to another court on November, 15, 2018.

Counsel to the traders, Victor Agwu, expressed displeasure over the withdrawal of the judge from the case. He told our reporter that it is unfortunate that the traders’ own side, where they said they did not issue any of such announcements was not heard.

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Meanwhile, the traders have condemned a new list of levies approved by the Commissioner for Trade and Investment, Chief Charles Ogbonnaya, saying that the levies are burdensome. The levies include income tax-N3, 600, Stallage fee-N2, 000, Infrastructural levy-N2, 000, Sanitation levy (ASEPA)-N3, 600 and security levy-N2, 000.

Others are Renewal of Abia State Signage Agency (ABSA)-N3, 000, Scooping levy-N800, Fire Service levy-N2, 500 and Renewal of Business Premises-N2, 000.
One of the leaders of the market trader’s union said that the levies are much and that they will not be able to pay it.

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