16 December 2012

Nigeria: Confusion Greets FCTA Decision On Wuse Market

Last week, the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) had announced the intention of the Federal Capital Territory Authority (FCTA) to remove the Wuse Market in Abuja and replace it with a secondary school; a declaration that has stirred up reactions from traders and users of the market.

The relevance of markets in the hub of a city is something that can never be doubted and such is the case of the famous Wuse market. Located in the Abuja metropolis, the market serves various areas around it including Wuse, Maitama, Kado, Gwarimpa, Utako areas among others. However, due to certain factors which have posed as a threat to the environment, the Federal Capital Territory Authority (FCTA) through the AEPB, has declared its intention to remove the market and replace it with a secondary school.

Speaking on the reason for this, the Head, Information and Outreach Programme, AEPB, Mr. Joe Ukairo stated that the idea to remove the market is intended to achieve what has been in the Abuja master plan. According to him, Wuse market was not initially designated to be at the location it occupies now.

"Well, people had the notion that the plan to remove Wuse market was for the purpose of curbing incessant street hawking in the area, but that is not the only reason. Actually, the plan is in line with the master plan for Abuja. Following the plan, Wuse market is not supposed to be there, that place is supposed to accommodate an educational institution.

The master plan took a lot of planning and scientific effort to build up and when you destroy the master plan, it could give a little negative effect which will require a touch on a place or two and that is what we are doing today."

Speaking further on the intended plan, Mr. Ukairo acknowledged that the plan might not be acceptable to the general public. However, he stated that it is for public interest as the AEPB seeks to put to light the essential linkages between environment and development.

"AEPB is not just about waste collection; we are also here to look at the environmental impact of development and to put to light the essential linkages between environment and development and that is very important, because there is a limit to what the environment can carry. We are the voice of the environment and have to advise the government appropriately, thus this intention to follow the original master plan for Abuja and remove the market.

The problem which we encounter due to the presence of the market and street hawkers in the area is enormous. I take time to wonder what it will be like for the people living around the market. Can their children play in the compound and enjoy serene atmosphere and the beauty of their environment? I guess not, because in a bid to sell, traders have invaded the premises which they also litter with faeces and all manner of dirt."

That notwithstanding, he urged the public as well as traders to go about their businesses as normal, stating that the removal is not going to be sudden but a gradual process.

"The problem associated with the location of this market is enormous, making the FCTA to reconsider going back to the master plan after all. However, this is not what will happen suddenly. It will take a gradual process and a relocation process before Wuse market will be totally removed, so it is not just what is going to happen tomorrow so people should not criticise AEPB."

Expressing their views on same matter, some concerned persons who spoke to LEADERSHIP SUNDAY opined that government should do everything with the interest of the public at heart.

Venting his disapproval over the matter, a jewelry merchant in the market, Mr. Suleiman Gombe said that the removal of the market, if carried out will affect people negatively as it will ensure loss of properties which they laboured hard to acquire.

"I have heard of the proposal by the government and consider it very alarming. I am surprised and quite disappointed at this plan owing to the fact that it has not been long government revoked these shops in the market which we later bought from the initial owners. I believe that AEPB was there at the time; they did not do or say anything. It is now that they have suddenly remembered that there was a master plan for Abuja which stated that this location is for a secondary school and not a market."

Showing his confusion on what would be their lot; Mr. Gombe sought to know what will happen to the shops they spent so much to buy.

"Now tell me what will happen to our shops if this market is removed? We bought these shops at very exorbitant prices but that is because we were assured that the leasing was for 50 years. For example, this shop where I am selling belongs to me, and because it is in a good position, it was sold for N27 million."

Stating how he wants the issue of incessant hawking to be handled, Mr. Gombe said, "Over the issue of the hawkers, I will only say that the government has the ability and can do anything that they want to get the hawkers off the streets but over these shops, they should please respect the agreement we had with them."

In a similar reaction, a consumer who preferred to remain anonymous opined that the intention to replace Wuse market with a secondary school has always been there in the Abuja master plan. However, she admonished the government to go about the relocation of the market in a way that will be fair and beneficial to the traders and shop owners of the market.

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