Mr. Charles Nnabuike Odoh, is the executive chairman of General Electronic Dealers Association of Nigeria (GEDA) and also the coordinator, Amalgamated Alaba International Market. He speaks on challenges impending business growth at the popular Alaba International Market.
Please can you tell us more about this market and it’s challenges?
Well, let me talk about our challenges because that is our main concern. As for the market, it is well known already, but faced with a whole lot of challenges even though everyone has his own challenges and we have our own share here too.
When you talk of Alaba international market, you are talking about the many sections that make up this great market. As a block, I must say that the closure of the borders has affected us greatly, but then, the government said it is for the good of our economy and we as law abiding group of traders are waiting to experience the good to come from it to us. All that is probably our hope for the future, but as it stands today, we have lost most of our customers who come from different neighboring countries to patronise us, even the goods we get from them all stopped and we are not enjoying the best days in this market as I speak with you.
The infrastructure that we are lacking are much and all these tell negatively on us. This is a big market situated far from the port and container trucks are forced to travel far through very bad and dangerous roads leading to the market. If you are lucky to receive your goods in good condition after the bad road experience you are lucky, else a lot of goods are lost to the bad roads, and even lives some times are lost with the goods from mile two through trade fair under bridge, Baracks, then Volks and the old and forgotten Alaba international market road. The road however is under construction but some of us are still worried over the pace of work in some vital areas and we fear that the Alaba international market road may not be captured in the repairs.
As United traders, we have tried on our own to provide some amenities within the market, but more are still needed. You might want to look at things from the role of the government that receives regular tax from this market. This market has a huge population visiting on a daily basis and yet there are no government amenities like good water, health care in case someone has a health emergency. No provisions incase of fire outbreak. The ones you see are product of our indigenous and collective efforts as the case may be.
I am sure you saw the congested road on your way into the market. We had complained to the government several times to help us clear those illegally trading on the roads leading to the market and they have continued to promise without fulfilling any. If you visit this market for the first time and experience this crazy traffic caused by congested roads by illegal trading activities on the road sides leaving a narrow pathway for vehicular movement, you may never want to repeat your visit due to terrible experience.
We have this network problem here in this market too that makes communication very difficult unless you move away a little and then the power.
I was thinking you wouldn’t talk about power?
The power issue has been more like a nightmare for many years now and I recall in 2015 when the present vice President visited this market and promised us the independent power solution, but he too appears to have forgotten us and his promise; but I tell you today that power is Nigeria’s biggest problem. If we can fix this single problem, it will help to correct other issues by at least 45 per cent because power is everything.
I see you are opening a new administrative office. Can you tell us about it?
Yes, my administration has successfully completed a standard administrative office with state of the arts fittings as you can see for yourself and we are hoping to get it commissioned by one of our reverend leaders and Former chairman, Eze Dr Peter Omenife Olikanyi. As for other things, my team and I are leaving no stone unturned because we believe in good leadership and that is why we have continued in rolling out good and quality guidelines that ensure good business experience for both our members who are the traders and our esteemed customers. Here, we have also ensured relative peace. You might wonder why I mentioned peace as an achievement. You see, there is nothing more important and tasking as ensuring peace at all times and until you achieve peace, nothing will work. Unity and love are very vital ingredients for expedited progress. We at some point lacked it, but I thank God that we are now more united then ever.
What is your advice to the government as regards better ways of ensuring that issues such as you raised don’t kill off our markets ?
Simple. They should take a cue from the Enugu State governor. He is doing wonderfully well. Maybe, he can share good experiences with as many that are genuinely interested to do it right.