Akwanga LG Boss Sheds More Light On Relocation Of Market

The Chairman of Akwanga Local Government Council, Honourable Samuel N. Meshi has thrown more light on developments that led to the final move by the Council to move the traders from the old market to the new Modern Market. Speaking exclusively to Eggonnews on Monday January 20, 2020, the Chairman refuted the claims of some traders on the issue of adequate notice not given to them and rents they reportedly paid on shops at the old market. The Chairman also disclosed what would be done at the site of the old market.

Here is how the interaction went:

Honourable, you may wish to tell us what happened recently in Akwanga town, because there were reports about the Council relocating all the traders and thereby demolishing shops. Can you give us the official position on what happened and why it happened?

Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to explain what really happened.

Let me take us back down memory lane. In 2013, the State Government came up with a policy of building markets. Luckily enough, Akwanga was one of the centres where modern markets would be built. We had some markets built in Lafia, two or so in Keffi and in Akwanga we have one.

Hon. Samuel Meshi, Chairman Akwanga LGA

The Government did not just embark on building the markets and then leave them. The aim of government was to ginger the economy of the areas; to enhance the trade and economic lives of the areas.

The foundation of Akwanga market was laid, the contract was given, and to God be the glory, the erstwhile government of now Senator Umaru Tanko Al-Makura completed the building and commissioned it. After commissioning, what was left? It was left for occupation.

I want to tell you that two or three successive governments at the Local Government tried to make our traders see reason to go and occupy those shops in the market but they failed to because movement from the old market to a new place was always greeted with a lot of pessimism, doubts and uncertainties, because they would tell you their customers were used to them in a particular place and so movement to them was counted as a loss. The government of A A Koto tried but the traders would not move. That of Honourable Kwanta Yakubu also tried but the traders did not move.

So, when I came, I inherited that problem, I had series of meetings with them. I should also tell you that since I came on board, the traders postponed the movement twice. We would arrange with them, they would agree to move but would later plead that they should be allowed to attend to or service their customers for the Sallah before leaving. After the Sallah, the story would change; they would refuse to move.

And so we had a meeting with the traders on 20th November, 2019 in the palace of the Chun Mada. All the different arms of the traders’ association were represented, the security were there, the State Government was represented and of course the Local Government Council.

They were then given the order that the traders should move to the market before Christmas. As usual, they pleaded. I then asked them, when do you want to move? The leaders of the traders’ union themselves fixed 2nd January, 2020 as the movement day. With the intervention of the Chun Mada, I obliged. I said that, because you want to service your customers for Christmas and the New Year, after the New Year, you should move. I had no objection. That was the agreement.

So, after the Christmas, they started moving. Glory be to God, this time around, the traders themselves obliged on their own, I even had forgotten about the covenant we had with them.

By 2nd January, 2020, they had moved to the new market, and as I speak to you now, if you go to the new market, I was there this morning, go and see how busy and beautiful the place is. The traders themselves are telling me that they are grateful. The economic activities in the market have picked up. They have beautiful and more spacious shops. At the end of the day, they just lock up and go home. The following day they come and business continues.

There is good network of roads within the market. Life has been restored to the market. As I speak to you now, the traders in Akwanga are happy; we have very good rapport with them.

But there were reports that you encountered resistance from the traders, and that some traders did not want to move and therefore you had to force them. Was there any resistance that you encountered?

We did not encounter any such resistance from any trader. What you saw me doing that day was, you see, the aim of relocating that market from the old one was to clear that site, that road from the roundabout leading to Keffi, where the old market used to be. That place used to cause a lot of traffic congestion, thereby making movement very difficult. There have been many cases of accident around that area. Therefore, when the traders relocated to the new market, and as usual in such circumstance, hoodlums would take advantage of the movement. They pilfered some of the old zinc, windows, doors, fittings and the like. Those ones did not bother us, moreover the market was billed for demolition.

After that, hawkers were trying to block the road. They were the ones we were trying to clear. On Monday, myself with the team and with the backing of the law enforcement agents, we went round to tell the hawkers that they must not hawk to block the road, we said they should go and hawk in the new market. If you must sell anything at all, go the place where people will know you there.

That was exactly what we did. If you go there now, move from the roundabout to Goddy Filing Station, you will see the place is clear and the road is motorable. That is what happened. It was not that traders refused to oblige, no, these were hawkers pushing their wares in the wheelbarrows thereby causing congestion. Those were the people we were saying they should go to the new market

What is your response that some traders were saying they could not move because they had paid for rents wherever they were staying and so if they packed they were going to run at a loss and that the Local Government was not being considerate?

Of course you would expect complaints where changes are being introduced and some people become pessimistic. Just like you said, some traders came with the complaint that they had paid money, some saying they paid for ten years. I then asked them, is it ethically right for you to pay money to an administration that would last for just two or three years and you pay for ten years? Is it that the next administration would come and fold their hands and watch?

In any case, nobody has come and shown me any documents as evidence. I don’t have any evidence of payment. And so those are concocted stories. I told them if you have a genuine case, come with your receipt and after authentication and I am convinced that you paid money to government coffers and your money has been used by government, I know what to do. But up to this time that I am talking, nobody has come with evidence of such claims of payment. Some would say that yes, we are supposed One Million but we recycled the money in building the shop. How true is that? Whereas, as at now, I have people that were contracted to build the shops and they have not been paid and I am trying to see how to pay them.

So, if any trader will come with authentic bill to have built any shop anywhere, bring me the papers. And who authorised you to build the government shops? That is my question!

All that is because people are resisting change. That is usual. It did not start in Akwanga, and it will not stop in Akwanga. I want to assure you that all those doubts are fading away.

What do you intend to do with the old market site?

Very good! That is a very good question. The old market is government property. I as an individual will not tell you here and now that this is what I want to do with the old market site, we have options and suggestions.

I am pleading to well meaning Nigerians, and people from Akwanga in particular, if you have any idea that will put that place to use, it is welcome. I have measured the place, I know the size of the place and we will want to put it to a befitting use that will take care of the interest of the whole community. That is our focus. But for me to tell you that this is precisely what we intend to do with that place, I think it is premature.

What call do you have on the people, particularly so the traders in Akwanga and generally the people of Akwanga as far as the exercise is concerned?

Let me first and foremost thank the traders from Akwanga. They will recall that about a fortnight ago, the Chun Mada, myself and the market officials, came to the place after moving and we prayed with them. Both Muslim and Christian clerics were invited who prayed for the good and development of the market. That was a very good beginning. I appreciate their compliance to government orders.

What I will advise them is that, having started that market on good footing, please, everybody should go about his duties without any molestation or harassment from any quarters. Your things are safe; the market administrators have employed many people to take care of your security.

Therefore, I am calling on traders, especially those traders that they have been allocated shops, I told them that any shop that is not occupied up to the 31st of this month (January), we shall re-allocate it to willing traders. The market association will be the ones to re-allocate those shops to their members. I still stand by position.

I am calling on people to please patronise the market – the traders, the general public to note that there is no change that comes without pains. We are just going through the pains of change. In the very near future, we shall overcome it. I call on all of us to partner with the government for our own good

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