There was gnashing of teeth, tears, anguish and fierce protest last week as bulldozer and special security forces were deployed by the FCT Administration (FCTA) at Goza, an Abuja’s village market. The market was reduced to rubbles.
The Metropolitan Management Council, alongside the Department of Development Control of the FCT Administration had swooped on the market a day after the Friday busy activities.
The move may not have come to the villagers as a surprise. Gosa market, the melting point for buyers and sellers within the FCT and beyond, has been under constant threat of demolition from government and developers for some years now.
Expectedly, the action of the FCT Administration triggered wild protests among traders and residents of the village. The protests which lasted for days almost went out of hand but for the deployment of armed security personnel that mounted 24-hour surveillance for a week. The intervention led to the restoration of normalcy.
The grouse of the angry villagers is that a blow has been dealt on their means of livelihood. It was not surprising that hundreds of protesters took over the busy Airport Road disrupting the free flow of vehicular movement along the route.
On the first day of the protest penultimate Monday, over 50 private vehicles were reportedly destroyed and vandalised, while a policeman and four other officials of the FCTA were seriously injured.
The rioters had set up bonfires at the centre of the road, hauled stones and projectiles at armed policemen who retaliated with teargas canisters. When the situation was finally brought under control in the afternoon, about four people who led the riot were arrested by the police.
Fielding questions from Daily Sun a day before the demolition of the market, the Chief of the Market, Wakili Istifanus through his Special Adviser, Emmanuel Fahomuyi, lamented that their repeated appeals to the FCTA had fallen on deaf ears.
“We inherited this market from our forefathers and it has been in existence for more than 30 years. Over 30 surrounding villages own this market and have equally been benefiting from it, especially the poor masses. Government has assisted in providing certain things to enhance the smooth functioning of the market.
“We had appealed to government to spare the market for us because apart from the direct benefit, the villagers are not comfortable enough to shop at Garki or Maitama markets.
“The threat had become too serious previously that our women blocked the Airport Road to push home our demand for the market to be spared. This is the only market where we sell our farm products. We cannot fold our hands and watch somebody take over our inheritance and property.
“The demolition came because of the several interests putting pressure on the FCTA. With community efforts, we have been able to resist the pressure but we also know that there is a limit to our resistance. If they come with armed security agents and bulldozers, we cannot fight them,” he said.
Interestingly, there seems to be no going back on the possibility of the villagers reclaiming the market. The FCT Minister, Muhammad Bello, has not only vowed to bring the perpetrators of the protests arrested to book but also resolve not to allow hoodlums take over the territory.
Gosa: Abuja’s fresh fruit, food stuff market
Those thinking that Abuja residents spend fortune on cost of living because of the cosmopolitan nature of the city as the seat of power are far off the mark. Yes, the rich and the poor alike may certainly not be immune to the biting hardship in the country, but the effects may not harshly be the same for those with the secret formula of where and when to shop for goods, fresh food items and other pressing needs.
Gosa village market located conspicuously along the Airport Road was one of such shopping zones. Gosa, a Monday and Friday market, had served as melting point for buyers and sellers of all manners of goods and consumables at affordable prices.
The market, under the custody of small surrounding villages, had really met the shopping needs of most FCT residents and environs. It was well structured and under the supreme authority and supervision of an appointed market master running its activities.
Commodities at disposal
Perhaps, with the exception of human parts, every other article of trade can easily be found at the Gosa village market. Such items range from first grade second hand clothing (Okirika), edible items like fresh vegetables and other soup ingredients, food stuffs like yam, beans, local and foreign rice, garri, potato, assorted kinds of fresh fruits like pineapples, mango, carrots, oranges and pears, livestock like rams, goats, fowls, frozen chicken and turkey.
Interestingly, abattoirs were close by the livestock stand to provide services to those that made purchases of the livestock. However, regardless of the items that took shoppers to Gosa market, one thing unique about the market is the relative cheapness of the items.
To a shopper like Ijeoma, a teacher resident in Maitama, Gosa is a must patronised market.
“Even if you add the transportation cost to the goods you bought in Gosa market, the profit margin will still be lower than what one will get those items in Maitama.
“Again, the freshness of the commodities thrills me mostly. I have been patronising Gosa market for the past six years and I am not planning to stop the patronage,” she noted.
The build-up to the market usually starts officially every Thursday evening. Traders from far places like Lokoja and even Enugu usually arrive the market on the eve and sometimes spend the night in the open under the protection of the police and other paramilitary agencies.
Other traders from nearby settlements like Kuje, Gwagwalada, Suleja and the metropolis usually storm the market as early as 5am every Friday. Regardless of how threatening the weather might be – downpour or scourging sunshine – Gosa village market has become a must attend for both traders and shoppers.
Apart from meeting their shopping needs and providing succour to the residents of the FCT and environs, Gosa has over the years provided employment opportunities to many.
Distinctly among them are the youths who engage in trading and provision of services to shoppers with their wheelbarrows. Interestingly, many of the barrow pushers would trek several kilometres from Kuje and surrounding villages to hustle for a living.
It is usually fun every Friday night watching the truck pushers crowd into any available articulated vehicles to get to their destinations like Gwagwalada, Suleja, Madala and other suburbs of the FCT while those from Kuje seem to enjoy trekking home with their wheelbarrows.
The cleaners engaged to organise the market always ensured that the market was tidied up immediately after the business activities. Such action had also been a source of employment to tens and hundreds of women and young men.
The threat of eviction was not the only challenge Gosa village market faced before it was finally demolished. Periodically, cases of theft and vandalism of cars happen often. Admitting such incidents, the SA to the market chief said even though such thefts were recorded, the market authorities had always networked with the police to checkmate such occurrences.