Traders at the Ng’iya market in Siaya are accusing county government of Siaya officials of imposing an illegal taxation to finance the purchase of sanitisers.
According to the businessmen, the unscrupulous officials have connived with market committee leaders to tax each trader Sh200 for purchase of water containers, soap and sanitisers, despite the same being provided by the county government and the local member of the county assembly.
Speaking to the media during a protest at the market, the traders, led by Pascal Ochieng lamented that the officials were not issuing receipts for the Sh200 illegal levy.
He said that those who refused to part with the money had their wares confiscated amid threats that their operating spaces would be allocated to other people.
Ochieng said that this was not the first time that the market traders officials and county government staff were conniving to fleece them, adding that earlier, they were forced to part with money to allegedly bribe the police and chiefs to allow them to operate in the market despite the Covid-19 guidelines.
“Recently, fish mongers were forced to part with Sh800 each to facilitate the issuance of health certificates without undergoing the mandatory tests,” Ochieng said.
Another trader, Pauline Achieng said they were at the mercy of the officials who act with impunity.
“I trade in clothes and I cannot open in the morning hours as the officials insist that we only operate from 2pm,” lamented Achieng adding that bribery was the order of the day if one is to be allowed to operate earlier than 2 o’clock in the afternoon.
John Okila who has been operating in the market for the last four years said he was surprised to find his space allocated to an onion trader without any notice.
Okila said attempts to regain his space has been futile, with the officials tossing him around.
Addressing the protesting traders, West Gem ward member of the county assembly, Susan Okwiri Sino described the levies as illegal, adding that the county government cannot impose any fees without consulting the taxpayers through public participation and elected leaders.
“The norm is that before any levy is charged, the county government must come and explain to the tax payers and involve representatives of the people like myself. In this case, this did not happen hence it is illegal,” said the MCA who is popularly known as Nyar Mawira.
The MCA told those behind the collection of the illegal fee to refund it to the traders, saying that it was criminal to fleece the small-scale traders who were struggling to eke a living.
She further challenged the county health department to come clean over the illegal issuance of health certificates to people without undergoing the mandatory tests.
“This is a health scare. We are sitting on a time bomb and the health department must come clean and ensure that those behind it are disciplined,” said Okwiri who promised to take up the matter with county government of Siaya administration.
Okwiri called on the traders and their customers to heed the laid down Covid-19 protocol to avoid the spread of the disease in the county.
By Philip Onyango