•Council boss, traders lock horns over proposed shops
From Desmond Mgboh, Kano
ACROSS Nigeria, the dwindling economy is forcing many states and local governments to devise new strategies to generate revenue. And in many areas, this is not without its own bitter consequences.In Kano State, the fresh quest is already taking its toll and unsettling existing relationships. One of such places is Dala Local Government Area. The council authorities are currently at war with the traders in the iron market that is located within its domain.
In this local government area, one of the seven metropolitan local governments in the state, the council is building new structures within the premises of the market. This move has pitted it against the members of the traders in the market otherwise known as Kofar Ruwa market.
Already, the current dispute, which is breeding a tensed atmosphere in the state capital, has attracted the attention of the police. The police said it has commenced investigation into the dispute in a bid to avert a bigger problem in the future.Narrating the history of the present confrontation, the President, Kofar Ruwa Iron and Road Development Association, (an umbrella body for the traders in the market), Chief Anayochukwu Ike recalled that months ago, the chairman of Dala Local Government Area, Alhaji Suleiman Dan Isli, decided on a plan to build lock-up shops in front of their shops.
He explained that these shops, if allowed to be built in the way it was projected, would lock out the genuine traders and make it impossible for trailers bringing in their goods to have access to their shops inside the market.
He recalled that in an attempt to discourage the plan and give more revenue to the council, the traders decided to buy out the same space. He said the move did not yield the desired fruits. He said the council boss remained resolute to carry out his agenda, despite it enormous implications.
He said: “We decided to discuss with them on the possibilities of buying the space so that peace could reign. At the initial stage, we agreed with the committee set up by the council chairman that we would pay N300, 000 for each space, but to our surprise, they came back and jacked up the money to N850, 000 per space.”
Chief Ike, who remarked that his members were law-abiding traders who had been paying all the taxes and levies imposed on them by the state and local government council, lamented that erecting these structure within the market was simply heartless and amounted to getting the traders out of business and rendering them jobless.
He said: “If there are plans to relocate us, they should come out clear and explain to us. There is no way we can remain in this market with those structures there in front of our shops, unless they have decided to get us out of business maybe because they don’t like our faces.
“After exhausting all possible means of negotiation, we approached the court and got an injunction restraining the council authorities and their representatives from erecting any structure within the market. But immediately the injunction expired, they started digging holes in front of our shops.
“Last Friday, they came with Yandabas (street toughies) to lay the foundation in front of our shops. That action resulted into serious tension within the market as many of us hurriedly locked our shops and took to our heels.”
Chief Ike claimed that the matter had been reported to the Nigerian Police Force, Zone 1, but added that not even the plea by the Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG) in charge of Zone One, could stop the council boss, Alhaji Suleiman Dan Isli from building the lock-up shops in the market, blocking shops and offices.He appealed to Kano State Governor, Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje and other stakeholders and opinion leaders in the state to wade into the matter and stop theerection of more structures in Kofar Ruwa rod market.
“If they go ahead to build that shop, they have crippled our business,” he stated. “Besides, we all know the dangers inherent in a jam-packed market. We don’t sell crayfish. What we sell are iron and rods, which are naturally packed in the open space. Now if you come and block that space simply because you want to generate revenue, how and where do we then pack our goods? We are very much worried and we call on Governor Ganduje to use his good offices to save our business,” he appealed.
Chief Alphonsus Ubaneche, a member of the Board of Trustees of Kofar Ruwa Iron and Rod Dealers Association, in a chat with Daily Sun, prayed Governor Ganduje and other stakeholders in the state to stop the chairman of Dala Local Government from altering the original master plan of the market.
His words: “I am deeply disturbed and surprised at what is happening. I keep on wondering why the Dala Local Government chairman is taking this action. I have been in this Kofar Ruwa Market since 1987; that is over 29 years. And I am aware that this market has existed for the past 35 years.“The market has a master plan, and it has never been changed over the years. Many governments have come and gone, many council chairmen have come and gone and this market, and in particular, the Alphamic line has been as it is. Why is it now that the Dala Council chairman has decided to destroy the market by building lock-up shops on the main road?
“This is unfathomable and I keep on wondering what his reasons are. In fact, let me reveal to you that I personally service that very Alphamic line where they are erecting the illegal structures. That is where my office is located and I am affected.
“Go and ask, every year, particularly during the rainy season, I personally finance the servicing of that Alphamic line. And that is after paying taxes and levies and sorts of revenue imposed on us.
“Now, if you go ahead and build those shops on the main road, how are trailers going to bring in our goods? How would there be orderliness in the market? We all know what has been happening. In case of emergency, say, a fire incident, how would people and vehicle gain access in and out of the market? So, I want to insist that something must be done about it.
“Now, if you talk about revenue, like I told you, we are even being over-tasked. Each trailer loading and off-loading in this market pay N1000. There are other levies too that run on daily basis. So, what we are saying is that Governor Ganduje should intervene and stop the council chairman from erecting those illegal structures on the main road. We must have access to the market. We must have access roads to our offices and shops.
“In this matter, we owe Dala Local Council nothing; they should leave our market alone. Government as an institution is designed to pursue the welfare of the people, not to frustrate them or to destroy them.”
The police said they have been following the matter with keen interest. Last week, the leadership of the Kofar Ruwa Iron and Rod Dealers Association (KRIRDA), Kano State and the representative of the local government were invited by the police headquarters over the situation in the market.
Spokesman of the Nigeria Police in the state, Magaji Musa Majiya, a deputy superintendent of police, confirmed that the police was aware of the incident.
He told Daily Sun that the police commissioner in the state, Alhaji Maigari Dikko had received a number of petitions on the issue as a result of which the parties were invited to state their cases.
He added that following the visit of the disputing parties, the commissioner ordered a team of officers to visit the market and report back to him. He added that the investigators had completed their task and were at present compiling their report for presentation to the commissioner.
He appealed to the disputing parties to maintain peace and order pending the outcome of the investigation by the police command.
Meanwhile, a Kano High Court on Monday ordered the iron and rod traders and the Dala local government administration to maintain the status quo in the matter.
Justice Hadiza Sulieman, who declined the plaintiff’s application for the extension of the interim order, ruled that both parties should maintain the status quo until the hearing of all the pending applications before the court.
Justice Hadiza Suleiman has adjourned the case to May 12. But for now, palpable anxiety still pervades the air at the Kofar Ruwa market in Kano.