Desmond Mgboh, Kano
On Sunday, July 19, 2020, Sabon-Gari Market, Kano, was invaded by officials of the Kano State Road and Transport Agency (KAROTA). They subsequently demolished hundreds of shops, business premises and attachments situated on walkways and edges of the market.
The agency had planned the operation to happen outside public glare, the reason they struck, in a commando style, at exactly 10:45 pm. They had also anticipated a resistance, the reason they chose the night to descend on their targets and evaded the anger of the traders.
When they arrived with truckloads of officers, armed with long sticks, they barred the traffic, human and vehicular, from the immediate vicinity of the market. They stopped all vehicles, redirecting them to elsewhere, clearing the space for their act.
For hours while the operation lasted, they behaved like conquerors, barking and periodically screaming out orders, all of which sank fear into the souls of nearby residents, who hid behind their window drapes, to gaze at the shaded exercise.
At the end of the operation, the front-view of the market was restored, but at a very huge cost to the traders, as premises and attachments had been pulled down.
Hairdressers, fruit, vegetable, fish and meat sellers, dealers in second -hand clothing, shoes, fabrics and accessories have been heart broken.
Many of the traders were alerted, on the same night, of the unwholesome demolition of their places of businesses. Some rushed down to confront their worse fears, but others could not risk it coming over at that time of the night. They stayed at home having a sleepless night.
At dawn, the destruction at the market was so immense, the demolition of the structures so heart bleeding. It was like those behind the act had no souls of their own.
They swept the whole vicinity, levelled every inch of the structures reportedly standing on the walkways before they departed that night.
By the time the victims gathered that Monday morning, the weight of their losses was so overwhelming. And in no time, their anger and grief snowballed into a mass protest. They hit the streets, decrying their ill fortunes, burning tyres at exactly the same spots, where KAROTA officials, had behaved like demi-gods the night before.
One of the aspects of the demolition exercise that pained the hearts of many was the timing. There was a consensus that whoever ordered the demolition was not considerate of the painful economic hardship occasioned by COVID-19 in the state.
Madam Abudu Aje, one of the traders who claimed she voted for APC asked: “Does it mean that the government, under Ganduje, had gone so cold that he could allow this to happen to us?”
Another dejected trader told Daily Sun: “Couldn’t government have pushed the demolition a little bit further than now, knowing that the traders had just pulled through a very hard time due to the pandemic?”
While many of these traders admitted that they were aware of a pending dispute over the site of their businesses, they insisted that they did not get a clear notice of an impending demolition exercise on that Sunday.
Agnes Ibu said KAROTA officers had marked their shops on Saturday night, knowing that many of them, because of their faith, do not come to market on Sunday: “We did not even see the “KAROTA REMOVE” notice that was pasted on our shops on Saturday.
“Those who saw it could not do much on Sunday morning.
“They were hoping to pack out by Monday, only for them to come to this ugly fate.” He blamed the Managing Director of KARAOTA, Baffa Babba Dan’agundi, for their misfortune.
What many did not know was that Dan’agundi might not have acted alone. In fact, a committee including representatives of the security agencies, Managing Director of REMASAB, Managing Director of Sabon-Garri Market, Managing Director, KNUPDA and the Director General, Street Trading drove the action to this point.
Public Relations Officer, KAROTA, Nabilusi Abubakar Kofar Na’isa, told Daily Sun that the Committee on Clearing Illegal Structures on Walkways headed by Dan’agundi gave the affected traders six months prior notice to vacate the road side, before embarking on the clearing exercise.
He explained that previous governments had provided sites for the said traders at Bompai in Nassarawa Local Government to accommodate the traders, another site at Bachirawa, Ungogo Local Government and yet another site on Gwarzo Road, R/Zaki in Gwale Local Government:
“Despite such efforts by previous administrations, the road side traders refused to relocate to the sites provided for their use, hence the government decided to demolish such illegal structures erected without governments’ approval after the six months expiration.”
On complaints of theft recorded during the demolition, he stated that any trader, whose goods were stolen during the exercise, should report to the Sabon-Gari Market police division for necessary actions.
He warned that those who wanted to cause public disturbance would be squarely dealt with by the agency and its sister agencies as the government would not relent in its efforts to clear the roads of illegal structures.