Okey Sampson, Aba
What is in a name? In Igbo, the word Buharia means ‘remove to another area’ or ‘take to another place.’ It means to carry something from one point to another.
Buharia Market popularly known as Good Morning or Vegetable Market, which sits atop a hill that over looks the Orji Uzor Kalu Bridge in the outskirts of Aba, the commercial hub of the state, is akin to the proverbial child of circumstance. The market was established in the early 1980s during the first stint of President Muhammadu Buhari as military head of state, as a relief market.
Prior to its relocation, the Vegetable Market as it was then known and which as the name implies was majorly populated by women who sell vegetables was located along School Road, opposite the main entrance to Enyimba Stadium.
Buhari was to make his maiden visit to the commercial city as head of state and the then military government of old Imo State, in a typical Nigerian style of painting a Sepulchre white while underneath was human carcass, decided to relocate the market which constituted an “eyesore” to give Buhari who was to pass through the route to Enyimba Stadium for his reception the impression that all was well with the city, at least environmentally.
So, it was this relocation occasioned by the Buhari’s visit that made locals to call it Buharia Market- one established because of Buhari’s visit which also connotatively in Igbo means “re-located market.”
According to Madam Oluchi Okorie who sells tomatoes at the market, “before the present president came to power in 1983 as military head of state, we used to stay along School Road, opposite the main entrance to Enyimba Stadium.
“As Buhari was about visiting Aba then, the government of Old Imo State relocated us to this place and we liked it because it is spacious and we were having more customers after the government of Orji Uzor Kalu built the link road between Ngwa Road and Ogbor Hill.”
However, about six years ago when the former Abia commander of the NDLEA, Mrs. Florence Ezeonye waged war against hard drug peddlers and users at their location on York Street, Aba, they found a new haven at a location near the market. They are indeed unfriendly guests to the traders as no day passes without one reported crime or the other being committed in the market and its environs.
“Apart from the bad roads, we are also battling with activities of hoodlums who were dislodged from the York area by officials of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and they relocated at a spot on the bank of Aba River, close to the market. The presence of these miscreants in the area apart from posing security risk to the traders also scare our customers away.
“Once it is 6.30pm, people find it difficult to pass through the Orji Uzor Kalu Bridge and we are gradually being put out of business”, a woman in her late 50s who sells vegetable said.
A trader who owns a provision kiosk but would not want his name in print for fear of being victimised said the activities of the drug peddlers were not hidden as they prance menacingly round the market in broad daylight unchecked.
According to him, “these people move about the market unchecked and the worse of it is that security personnel who are supposed to arrest and prosecute them come around to patronize them on daily basis.”
As the traders continue to count their losses, the nuisance created by the presence of the miscreants in the area is also being felt in the neighbourhood of the Federal Housing Estate, Ogbor Hill as no day passes without a reported case of one form of crime or the other.
Apart from activities of miscreants, Buharia Market is also suffering from bad roads and the traders blamed it on the previous administration in the state.
John Okorie, an Onions seller said: “That government did not do anything to put Ngwa Road which is the only access road to the market in order. What its officials do on daily basis is only to come and collect all sorts of levies without having anything to show for them.”
A trailer driver, Mallam Abdul Shinkarfi from Sokoto who spoke through an interpreter said he used to come to Aba three to four times with wares, but due to bad roads, he manages to come only twice.
“You will have a smooth ride from Sokoto but immediately you enter Aba, things will change and before you will get to the market, your vehicle will not remain the same. The other time, after bringing goods to Aba, I spent over N100,000 to put my vehicle in order,” he said.
He stated that because of this they have increased the fares they charge but could not give detailed figures owing to what he called strategic reasons.
The traders called on Governor Okezie Ikpeazu to come to their aid by putting Ngwa Road which is the major entrance in good condition.