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Revisiting The Plight Of Abuja Regional Market Traders

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Recently, some traders, under the platform of Dei-Dei Regional Market Shop Owners Association, raised an alarm over the continued neglect and abandonment of multi-million naira Dei –Dei Regional Market by the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA). DAVID ADUGE-ANI writes on the issue. 

The Dei-Dei Regional Market which was established by a former minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mallam Nasir El-Rufai in 2005, was designed to be one of the bulk-breaking regional markets in the FCT. The market was established in accordance with the Abuja master plan, which had provision for three regional markets in Dei-Dei, Karu and Kuje. LEADERSHIP gathered that the markets are supposed to serve as places where trucks and trailers coming into the FCT, from other parts of the country, would discharge their bulk goods. These goods are later broken into smaller portions and sizes before they are transported to the districts markets and then to the neighbourhood markets in the territory.

However, shortly after the establishment of the Dei-Dei Regional Market, our reporter gathered that development was stalled midway; due what the administration then explained was as a result of paucity of funds. But when the present FCT minister, Mallam Muhammad Musa Bello, assumed office in 2016, he ordered the recommencement of work so that it could be commissioned for use. 

The administration then granted temporary allocations to traders to build their shops in line with an approved prototype design, with over 6,100 shops, situated in Tudun Fulani along Gwagwa-Suleja old road, to cater for the needs of the traders.

Elated by this development, the traders through their market association approached a private developer under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) and a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed and terms of agreements reached on how to assist the traders complete their shops.

Speaking when he undertook an inspection tour of the on-going work at the market in 2016, FCT minister, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello, promised to complete and commission the market in December that year.

Bello reiterated that the regional market would be provided with high quality facilities that depict its name, thereby encouraging high-level patronage from the traders and the shoppers alike, adding that the traders from the roadside are also expected to be evacuated and relocated into the market, as there is enough space to accommodate them. “The structures inside the market had been abandoned for a very long time to illegal occupants who use the facility as hideout for criminal activities. This situation must be reversed because the illegal occupants had already been evicted.”

Represented by the then FCT permanent secretary, Dr. Babatope Ajakaiye, the minister lauded the enthusiasm shown by the traders to the administration as traders on the roadside have since been complying by relocating into the temporary space provided inside the market, pending revalidation of their papers. He emphasized that when commissioned, the market has the potential to reduce pressure on existing markets within the Federal Capital City because it would be a hub where major commodity brokers can warehouse their goods and further distribute them to other nooks and crannies of the FCT.

In order to take care of petty traders, Bello disclosed that the FCT Administration has earmarked informal section of the market for such hawkers to carry out their businesses in an organized manner, as well as neighbourhood and formal sections to cater for different interests. He thus, called on shop owners to ensure speedy rehabilitation of their shops for full take off of the market in earnest; adding, “It is totally unacceptable for people to be hawking in unapproved places.”

He disclosed that the shops in the market are being developed by the beneficiaries, while the government is already taking care of the provision of infrastructure as well as other facilities like parks, gift shops, toilets, storm water drainage, electricity, Police Post, banks and clinic.

However, shortly after these pronouncements, the commissioning ceremony of the market was cancelled by the administration without any reason. The Abuja Regional Market Dei-Dei failed to take off, as planned. Rather, the market, which is sitting on about 86 hectares of land, with over 6,100 shops, has today become an emergency settlement for the ‘homeless’ as well as a haven for prostitutes and criminals.

When LEADERSHIP visited the proposed market recently, many shops in the market were at various levels of completion. Some of them are at the foundation levels, some at the lintel levels, others roofed, while others are plastered and many not plastered.

Addressing newsmen recently, chairman of Dei Dei Regional Market Shop Owners Association, Alhaji Abubakar Tukur explained that after the cancellation, several letters were written and forwarded to the FCT minister requesting for approval to allow shop owners continue work on the project and subsequent completion of work in order to commence commercial activities in the market. Tukur stated that such letters were never replied up to date. “We are not requesting for financial support from the FCT minister. All we need is his consent and approval to allow our members complete the development of shops and commence commercial activities on the market. We have waited for so long and that is why we are calling on the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene and allow the market to be functional.

He noted that if the market is operational, over 8, 000 unemployed Nigerians would secure paid jobs and commercial activities in the area, adding that it would also boost government revenue, because it is a revenue base activity in the FCT.

Also speaking, board director, Rufai Na’aba noted that the entire market has been taken over by criminals and miscreants, who perpetuate robbery and kidnapping activities around the area, arguing that there is urgent need by the authorities to give necessary approvals for work to commence at the site.

In an interview with our reporter, the corporate affairs manager of Abuja Markets Management Limited (AMML), Innocent Amaechina, explained that the FCT minister, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello, has the market close to their hearts and he is coming out with a programme that would be of benefit, not only to the traders, but to the generality of FCT residents. Amaechina noted that other FCT ministers have come and gone without talking about the market, adding however that it was only the present administration that picked interest in the completion and commissioning of the market.

He called on members of Dei Dei Regional Market Shop Owners Association, to exercise patience as the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) is working towards commissioning the market and to continue to communicate their interests through the AMML and the Abuja Investments Company Limited (AICL), to the office of the minister. The corporate affairs manager however pointed out that in the past there was an attempt by the administration to commission the market, so that traders could an come back, adding however that it was an infighting and mischief among the traders themselves that stalled the commissioning. He continued: “The traders are talking about heir commercial interests, but the weight f the interest of the people of the FCT, including the traders themselves rest on the FCT minister, whom I believe is feeling it more than the traders themselves.”

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