Traders groan as bulldozers demolish 5,000 shops
By FRED ITUA
This is obviously not the best of times for traders, artisans and shop owners in Abuja. It is a season of lamentations and anguish. For them, the only source of their livelihoods has been yanked off by the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA). With the biting economic hardship, occasioned by the recession, this maybe the end of the road for many of them.
Across every length and breadth of FCT, markets, shops and makeshift kiosks are facing the wrath of bulldozers. From Dei Dei to Kubwa, Maraba to Nyanya, the sad tales are the same. Traders are counting their losses, following the demolition of their shops by the Department of Development Control of the FCTA.
The latest casualties are traders and shop owners at Kubwa Market. A fortnight ago, there were fears that the FCTA had given an order that the market be demolished. Meetings were held and emissaries sent to the FCTA to cease fire, pending the resolution of grey areas.
The traders claimed that while the negotiations were still on, angry bulldozers moved in and destroyed over 5,000 shops, thereby rendering almost 10,000 people hopeless. That is not all. The shop owners were not relocated to a temporary site pending when the market will likely be rebuilt.
They lamented that their worry was not just that their shops were pulled down but they were not given a temporary site to operate. At the moment, there are no other markets servicing the large population in Kubwa, reputed to be the most populated suburb town in Abuja. The next available market is located at Dutse Alhaji, which is quiet a distance from Kubwa.
When Daily Sun visited the scene, it was a wailing competition. The young and the old, big and small, were not spared in the wailing competition. Some traders who were yet to take their goods out of their shops, had their fingers burnt, as everything fell to the destructive bulldozers. The traders are not just venting their anger on the FCTA, they are also accusing their counsel of not representing the market well during a long drawn negotiation with the council.
The market was demolished last Friday. Some affected traders demanded that they be compensated by the FCTA. According to them, they have been stripped of their only source of livelihoods by the administration, without making available any alternatives.
For Josiah Udeme who runs a small boutique, it is the end of the road: “We were told by some people that the market was going to be demolished by FCTA. We thought they were joking since we were not formally informed. Like in other places or when former FCT ministers did the same thing, they usually provided temporal markets.
“But this time, nothing like that happened. We were told to move out, but were not told where to go. We were then surprised when bulldozers moved in while traders were still coming to their shops. They just went straight and started demolishing. I could not take anything out of my shop.
“Like you can see, this place looks like a war zone. Our sources of livelihood have been taken away by this minister who does not bother whether or not we survive. This is unfair and wicked. They need to do something about it.”
Udeme is not alone in this. A female shopowner who sells frozen foods, recounted her ordeal. She said she is yet to recover from the shock of the demolition exercise. The woman who only gave her first name as Judith, said she was yet to decide on what to do next, following the demolition of her shop:
“I do not know how a government that promised change will turn around and make life difficult for Nigerians. They have increased fuel price, taxes and everything. They have even moved ahead to make dollars unavailable for ordinary people and now they are taking away our only sources of livelihoods.
“We are in recession and everyone is struggling to survive. Even if this government intends to send us packing, why now? How do we survive when everything is so hard? Where do we go from here? They did not provide any alternatives for us and how do they expect us to survive now? I am speechless my brother.”
A wheelbarrow pusher, Abdullahi, who spoke in pidgin English explained how the market was demolished. His interview is paraphrased:
“They came with armed security agents. There were police, soldiers and civil defence. They all came with their guns and drove everybody out of the market. People were still struggling to remove their goods when the bulldozers moved in. In no time, they brought the entire market to what you can see now.
“This is where we make our small money everyday. When people come to buy things, we assist them to take their goods to their cars. I used to fetch water for people. I was able to raise money to buy this wheelbarrow and now, there is no more market to use it. This is the only market in Kubwa. I may have to go back to my old job.”
Kubwa Market is not alone in this onslaught. Dei Dei Market too was demolished by the raging bulldozers. The same lamentations are holding sway at the market. Over N2 billion is believed to have been lost by traders in the market.
Maraba Market is gearing up to have a taste of the anger of the demolishing bulldozers. Traders there are already protesting and are calling on FCTA to put the plan on hold. But it appears that the pleas may fall into deaf ears. For FCTA, there is no retreat, no surrender.
Other parts of the territory have also been affected by the ongoing mass demolition and destruction of ‘illegal’ buildings used as markets.
In a telephone chat, the coordinator of Abuja Metropolitan Management Council (AMMC), Hajia Sefiya Umar, said the traders in the affected markets were informed six months ahead of time before the demolition.
She said the FCTA was working to ensure that markets in the territory were built to conform with the standard of the city. She said when rebuilt, traders will move in and occupy their modern shops, as against the current shanties.
While the traders are wailing over their new fate, some residents of Abuja have counseled the leadership not to stop at market demolition. They advised that bulldozers should also visit uncompleted buildings, which they said are used as hideouts by criminals.
Ahmed Abubakar, a retired teacher, urged the leadership of FCT to continue in its current effort at sanitizing the capital city. He argued that such sanitization effort will not be complete if it does not take the battle to the den of criminals:
“I like the idea that Abuja should be sanitized. I want the minister to demolish buildings occupied by criminals. Security agents know these buildings, it will be good for all of us.”
The immediate past FCTA had marked such uncompleted houses for demolition but the plan was not executed until he left office last year.