‘Calm’ returns to troubled Wuye market
The Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, plays host to a number of markets that cater for the needs of its residents.Heartwarmingly, most of the markets are of modern designs and built to conform with contemporary market needs, and in line with global standards. The most popular of these markets are Wuse, Utako, Gudu and Wuye markets among many others.
However, in recent times, Wuye Ultra Modern Market, has been in the news over a protracted tussle between the developer and occupants regarding issues bordering on ownership of shops, and disagreement over certain terms and conditions.
While the market was engulfed in the prolonged face-off, which even led to its closure, not everyone thought that matters would be resolved anytime soon. But the truth remains that apart from the brawling developer and traders, the shopping public was also affected.
Some residents of Wuye, who spoke to The Guardian, blamed the government for looking the other way while the feuding parties threw the public into needless hardship, even after government had taken pains put to in place such a facility to enhance economic development.
“The Wuye Ultra Modern Market is an international business hub, but it was left shut for a long time. With the market in place, one does not need to necessarily travel abroad to shop because the place was built to sell a wide range of goods. As a matter of fact, it is the location of this market that has brought rapid development to the entire Wuye area. So, those of us that reside here are happy now that the market has re-opened. It will make the area to once again bubble with varied commercial activities,” said a resident who gave his name as Emma Archibong.
A visit to the market reveals modern architectural and engineering designs that quickly communicate to anyone that there is magic in creativity. A first visitor to the market will simply be overwhelmed with awe and admiration.
The shops, which are of varying sizes, are well arranged, and security given due attention with a police post in place. The well-appointed parking lot and the beautiful road network not only add to the functionality of the facility, but also enhances the aesthetics. Other facilities include a church and a mosque, as well as a bank.
For devout Christians and Moslems, they may not have to go an extra mile from the market to have their spiritual needs addressed as there is a big church and a mosque, where traders and customers alike can conveniently worship God within the precinct of the market.
According to the developer, All Purpose Shelters Limited, the market was built under Public Private Partnership (PPP), on a Build Operate Transfer (BOT) basis.
Contrary to the wide held belief that Wuye market is a personal property, the developer said the market belongs to Federal Government and that it was initiated to meet the Abuja Modern City Development Plan, which requires that it must have a conducive trading environment for the people.
Executive director of the outfit, Segun Balogun, told The Guardian that “from inception, people believed we are the owners of the market, while in actual fact we are not. The process leading up to the emergence of this market was a tripartite arrangement, involving the developer, the Federal Capital Development Authority, and the bank. The market belongs to government and the idea is to meet up with the demands of a modern city. Abuja apart from being a modern city, is also the country’s capital and needs a conducive trading environment for the people.”
Balogun explained that the original intent of the FCT administration development is that every district must have an ultra modern market.
“Somehow, the democratic government that came in 1999 adopted this idea. However, it was during the tenure of Nasir El-Rufai, as Minister for FCT that the idea was reviewed for every district to have a modern market. But unfortunately, the government’s lack of resources caused it to come up with the PPP, BOT. There were four of these markets advertised. We participated in the bid and we won the Wuye Market,” Balogun stated.
He continued, “Wuye Market has a capacity of 1,600 shops, but the number of people that bided were over 5, 000. We started construction in 2004, but we did not do anything tangible till 2006 because there was lack of basic amenities in the area, which hindered us from taking off within the desired time.”
On what actually led to the showdown between the developer and traders, Balogun said they wanted ownership of the shops, but refused to pay the amount that each shop was to be allocated.
He added that the non-payment claim of some traders became a matter of litigation, which eventually led to the market being shut down.
“Advertisement to this effect, and procurement of forms were done between 2007 and 2008, but when it was time for commissioning, crisis erupted because some of the traders refused to pay for the shops. Because of this, we went to the court and got judgment in our favour. But there was still crisis, and we thought it wise to vacate the market for peace to reign. However, those that paid for the shops have been handed keys to their shops. As you can see, the shops are open and business is thriving,” he said.
Since the market re-opened, some of the traders who spoke to The Guardian, expressed happiness that issues were being sorted out at last, even as they added that business was booming.
National President of Market Men and Women Association of Nigeria, Mrs. Felicia Sani, advised her members, who are yet to pay for their shops to do so and settle down for business.
“We don’t want crisis in the market; all we want is peace. So, those who are forming groups to cause crisis that the shops should be sold for N2, 000 or N5, 000, are simply wasting their time. Because you cannot even rent a shop for that amount anywhere in Abuja,” Sani said.
Another trader, who simply gave her name as Betty, who said the crisis that led to the closure of the market had delayed her business, added that with the re-opening, things would soon normalise.
As it is today, the FCT administration has a responsibility to enlighten the traders more on the PPP business arrangement of the market, in order to dispel the erroneous impression held in some quarters.
However, not every trader in the market is pleased with the treatment meted to them, by the developer. One of those is Ugochukwu Uba, who deals on stockfish.
“I paid N500, 000 based on our first agreement only for the developer to come much later and ask us to increase the amount, depending on the size of shops. In my case, I was asked to add N300, 000.”
Another trader, Nkem Chigbo, who claimed to be one of the earliest occupants of the market, lamented the ordeal some of them went through while the crisis lasted.
He said he, and others who deal on perishable goods lost millions of naira, while the market remained closed, and they want the developer to compensate them.
“The only thing that will make some of us forget the incident is compensation. We can only be consoled if the managers of the market deem it fit to compensate us to recover little of all that we lost,” he said.