The curfew imposed on Suleja local governemnt area of Niger state since the Christmas day bombing has affected economic activities in the once peaceful community. Traders have now resorted to the weekly Madalla Market notorious for tanker accidents which have cost many their lives. Michael oche writes that in their desperation to make ends meet, the traders and buyers are risking their lives.
Many residents of Madalla will never forget in a hurry the mayhem that came calling on them in July 2010 when a petrol tanker skidded off the ever-busy Kaduna-Zuba highway and crashed by the market, resulting in the death of more than a dozen people.
The ill-fated tanker was loaded with petrol and the content spewed into the market environment and caught fire, razing more than a dozen vehicles and destroyed shops, food items and other wares along the highway.
About 50 traders and pedestrians had died when a similar incident occurred few months before that incident in July.
If anything, most residents expected that the fatalities recorded would have forced the Niger government to relocate the market.
But as it is, the market seems to be waxing stronger, and the traders are getting more desperate in their attempt to attract customers
The traders have virtually moved the market to the highway where they display their wares without caution on the road that has been notorious for claiming lives. Pedestrians and traders have been knocked down by over-speeding vehicles and the FRSC officials have had to work twice as hard to ensure the safety of traders and customers on every market day.
The location of the Madalla market has been identified as a black spot along the Zuba-Kaduna expressway. Hardly has any single month passed without an accident involving either tankers or other articulated vehicles being recorded
The location of the market totally contravened the federal highway regulation of 150 meters right of way to give room for trading and ensure traders do not spill over to the roads.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP SUNDAY, a trader, Ifeanyi Okoye said they understand the risk involved but said the shops provided inside the market have been fully occupied.
He said: “I have tried to get shop inside the market but I was unsuccessful. I have no choice but to bring my goods -second hand clothes- along the road. I know it is risky, but for now we don’t have a choice as it is from this business that I feed my family.
Another trader who identified herself as Mama Ezekiel told our reporter that she had witnessed no less than five accidents at the market, but believes her safety is in the hands of God.
She said: “My brother, many of us have been hearing rumours that Boko haram will attack the IBB modern market in Suleja. So this market even though it is located here, has been helping us. Many people like to come to Madalla market because things are cheaper here. Though it is our prayer that the government would relocate the market to somewhere that is safer”.
The Director general of theNational Emergency Management Agency of Nigeria (NEMA), Alhaji Mohammed Sani Sidi, on one of his visits to the Niger governor recently, identified the need for the Niger State government to relocate the Madalla market.
The DG said the Madalla market was responsible for the loss of many lives and property over the years.
Sidi noted that the place has recorded several road mishaps due to increased human and vehicular traffic, saying that the relocation would help reduce disasters.
“I call on the Niger State government to look at the possibility of relocating the Madalla market because the present location of the market has caused so many accidents that have led to the loss of numerous lives and property in the state. That place has accounted for the loss of lives as a result of its proximity to the road and, aside the disaster implication of having the market there, the place has become an eye sore”, he said.
A resident, however, told our reporter that it is well past time for the Niger State Government to, as a matter of urgency, consider relocating the Madalla market to a more suitable and safer place that is far from the highway.
He said: “I believe it is time the government moved the market away from the highway. However, as a short term measure, I will advise the Niger government to construct crash barriers on road-shoulders particularly at locations where human activities cannot naturally be avoided at close distances from highways.
He also blamed some of the accidents on the difficulty of FRSC to remove broken down vehicles from the highway.
He said, “Officials of the FRSC and other road traffic organisations should always act quickly to remove the wreckage of vehicles from accident scenes such as the Madalla market area, in order to forestall further hindrance to free flow of traffic and prevent another tragedy. Owners of transport companies and individual drivers should be compelled to carry out all necessary repairs on their vehicles before plying our roads”.