Tuesday 6th February, 2018 will remain indelible in the minds of the Government and people of Nasarawa State.
That day, Nasarawa State hosted the Number One Citizen of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, the President, Commander In-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on a one-day working visit where he commissioned some projects.
One of the projects the President commissioned included the International Market in Karu Local Government Area which was characterised with a lot of fanfare.
The market was then renamed after the President.
Months after, the market which was declared open for use by traders, has virtually remained forsaken by traders.
Curiously, and that is the main focus of this story, Eggonnews observed that in front of the international market, trading – selling and buying – is booming rather than inside the market. Traders display their wares in front of the market.
The international market, Karu has remained for the most part an unpatronized facility despite all effort made by government and management of the market in recent past to attract traders to occupy the shops to make it lively for commercial activities.
The different strategies adopted by the Government have so far proved abortive. One of the measures was when the Nasarawa Sate Government pronounced a ban on street trading and hawking along Karu-Abuja expressway. A Task Force was put in place for that purpose.
The Task Force charged with relocating traders to the International Market under the chairmanship of Arc Stanley Buba in April 2018 banned trading and hawking along the Keffi-Karu-Abuja expressway.
Arc Buba made the announcement during a meeting with officials of the Traders and Marketers Association and the National Union of Road Transport Workers.
Buba, who was also a Senior Special Assistant to the then Governor, Umaru Almakura, urged traders to move to the International Market in Karu to boost sales and improve the State’s revenue base.
“Traders must avoid street trading and hawking; they must move to the market to acquire spaces that will be allocated to them at no cost, on temporary basis.
“When traders move into the market, traffic congestion will be reduced along the Karu-Abuja expressway,” he said.
He warned that defaulters would face the full wrath of the law, and advised the traders to take advantage of the market to improve on their businesses, fight poverty and end unemployment.
Buba said that the ban would take full effect on May 1.
Investigation by Eggonnews revealed that the threat in the directive has largely been observed in the breach.
Inquiry also discovered that many people who paid for shops in the market are yet to move in because of what has been described as customers’ reluctance to go in for their needs.
According to some of the traders interviewed, trading takes place only where there are sellers and buyers, adding that for whatever reasons, buyers are probably not used to such elitist market culture.
The typical market in Nigeria is that of open space where buyers and sellers have closer interaction.
Eggonnews also uncovered that local markets around the Karu axis are also major factors causing set back to the international market, looking at the kind of people living in the area who are averagely low income earners and would therefore want to go after items commensurate to their earning. Such people see the international market as being that for ‘big people’.
Eggonnews inquiry revealed that for this reason, many of the low income earners in that axis prefer going to markets like those in Mararaba, Nyanya and Masaka for their buying and selling.
However of recent, Eggonnews observed that many traders, especially those selling second hand wears popularly known as Okrika, have been displaying and selling their wares at the entrance (gate) of the international market.
Eggonnews Correspondent was in the area and interviewed some of the traders by the road side who were selling and they responded thus:
Nuhu Umar, a trader in front of the gate, said: “We were staying at Mararaba market before the management asked us to leave there to this place.
“According to them, our business there was causing a lot of hold-up to motorists, so they forced us to leave that place.
“Even though, long before now, the authority wanted us out of Mararaba, however all effort failed until now when they were able to get the consent of the majority of the marketers who agreed to come here.
“The market is expanding gradually since we started coming here; we are really attracting customers who come to buy.
“In fact, most of the consumers prefer this place to Mararaba, because things are cheap and affordable, even we the traders staying here are enjoying this place. We want to remain here permanently if need be.
“Even though we have six months or one year to leave this place and move inside the market, we are not bordered much because we are ever ready to comply with the government directive at any given time.
“However, there are some of us who refused to obey government directive to vacate Mararaba market. They were asked to pay certain amount as fine before being released once they are caught.”
Chairman of the second-hand clothes dealers also known as Yan Gwanjo Union, Suleiman Sani, said: “We have spent over ten years in Mararaba market, before we were relocated to this place. But in the past, several efforts were made to bring us here but all could not succeed until now, because of the understanding and agreement of our people.
“We pleaded with the authority to allow us stay outside the market so as to create awareness so that people’s attention may come to the international market. And of a truth, our plan with the management has begun to yield desired result with the kind of patronage we are getting here.
“We thank the management for accepting our request by granting us the permission to settle here and when people are truly informed about the market, we can now settle permanently in a particular place allocated for us.
“Our desire is to stay here from now to December, because of the season we are in; people are seriously suffering. So, we don’t want to be discouraged, but attract them into this market as planned then see how this market would turn to.
“We are pleading for more time so that people should be familiar with this place, and by the time they are used to this place, even if we move inside they will be ready to also follow us. So it is a kind of market strategy we are trying to implement.
“And of a truth, for the sake of our coming here, a lot of people are now patronising this place. Some have come to rent shops inside the market. You may wish to know that most of the shops inside are not occupied and the few ones that were given are not even functional.
“In fact, our coming here is changing this international market. If you come to this place on Sunday you would not recognise this place again, because of the way people troop here. We are gradually bringing the glory of this market and in a short while people will be surprise on what or how this place will be.
“So, we need more time to actually create the desired awareness and establish closeness with customers.
“I think within the period of December and January, we shall all move inside the market. Certainly, there is a place kept specifically for us, we have started clearing the area and before the stipulated time it would be ready.
“As a leader of Okrika union, this is what we have agreed on and we told the management of this market of which they allowed us here.”
Eggonnews also took time to speak with some of the traders occupying shops inside the market.
Mr. Mike John, one of those traders inside the market, however said as far as other markets within Karu LGA area will continue to flourish, the Muhammadu Buhari International Market will never improve, because they constitute as threat to the market.
His words: “There is serious challenge in this market; we are being forced to come here. The market has been like this for very long time.
“Now if you look around, you will find out that shops are empty and no people around. The question is why? It is because of the neighbouring markets around. They have become a threat to this international market.
“Like Masaka, Mararaba, Nyanya and New Nyanya markets are the ones responsible for the backwardness of this market. When you come here on Wednesday, this place will be dry because of New Nyanya market. A lot of people would be going there to buy and sell there. The same thing on Friday also.
“The major problem now is how to relocate people from those markets down to this place; it is an issue of concern. How do you do that?
“Those people outside that are selling along the road from Nyanya down to Masaka, are the ones referred as illegal sellers. Most of them were moved from there to this place. But after two weeks when there was no market or patronage, they moved from here back to the place because they have families to cater for. So, because those people have pressing needs to take care of their families, they would not continue to stay where there is no market or profits. Therefore, they returned.
“These Okrika people outside, it is because they are in union that they were able to unite themselves and remain in that place. Otherwise, they would have been moved away.
“We are appealing to them to come inside the market to make it lively, because as it is, people find it difficult to enter the market since they can find most the things they want at the entrance and those of us inside are not making any sales.
“Even if they come inside, the neighbouring markets as I said will still be a threat unless something is done about them. Otherwise, it will still be same story. As far as I am concerned this International market does not worth its name, because most shops are not occupied and you can even count the people inside market.”
Further enquiry also revealed that in recent past, the traders complained that they could not afford the rent for the shops which they said was as high as N4m for a five-year.
The rent for the warehouses, they also claimed, was fixed at N5m for a five-year period, while the rent for a medium size shop is about N1.5m per annum for a shop of about 27 square metres wide.
Many of the traders said the exorbitant rates charged for the shops are some of the major challenges being faced by traders, which are hindering them from occupying the shops.
Speaking to newsmen last year, an official of the International Market said a five-year rent for each warehouse was pegged at N492, 200.
He noted that a 5-year rent for bigger warehouses (12 square metres) was put at N655, 000 while warehouses go for N774, 000. 00.
The official said a five-year rent for a 16-square metre warehouse was put at N880,000; rent for 19 square metre warehouse, N1.5 million; while rent for a 20 and 22 square metre warehouse goes for 1.1 million and N1.2million respectively.