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From Samuel Bello, Abuja
Most markets in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) are groaning under the incessant rains this season. If there is anything to proveow that fact it is the dwindling patronage and the filthiness of the markets.
From Utako to Gudu, Wuse to Kubwa, the story is the same. The markets are stinking and traders are lamenting. Major parks wear the same pitiable look.
The nation’s capital, like most populated cities, has a good number of markets and motor parks that boost the economic stature of Abuja.
Petrol stations, pharmacist’s shops, supermarkets, boutiques and food markets, among others, are expected to be clean. But that is not the picture of many outlets in this rainy season. Most of the markets where fresh foods are sold in Abuja are dirty. One is compelled to behold the sight of dirty grinders, dirty baskets, dustbins close to wares and salad fruits on the ground.
In this wet season, apart from every nook and cranny of the markets turning squalig, people who are drenched by the rain stroll to market with mud sticking to their attire and their clothes dripping with water.
Examples of this dirty turn of events abound in places like Garki Market, Fish Market in Life Camp and Ultra-modern Market in Wuse.
Abuja Metro discovered that the inward flow of people to these markets on a daily bases not only translates to economic gains but also increases waste deposits. The suffocating stench and waste generated from the markets are most times ignored and left unattended to, leaving them to accumulate and decompose.
The stench emanating from the markets compete with all of the used packaging that eventually ends up in the town dump, suggesting the health hazards Abuja residents are exposed to.
Most sections where foods are sold are the filthiest. Food items are displayed close to heaps of garbage. Sadly, the food sections, where fruits and vegetables are sold and often consumed raw are the most visited places.
A visit to Wuse Market revealed that the food and abattoir axis continuously smell of decomposed food and animal blood. And the market management seems not to care.
Some traders have put the blame on buyers who they claim drop wastes from food and used containers indiscriminately.
Most of the traders said they carry out their responsibility of cleaning their corners daily. They insist that they should never be blamed for the decrepit facilities that exist in the markets.
Mr. Emmanuel Abuh, who sells soft drinks and other beverages in Wuse Market, explained how the rains affected his income compared to the dry season.
His words: “It is bound to happen this rainy season, though it is not a new thing; this week, the rain has been very disturbing, especially the time we are really expecting customers to patronise us in this market. Because of the rain, people have stopped coming regularly like before and the income has dropped drastically.”
Abuh also blamed the management of Wuse Market for not being competent enough, noting that they sometimes, for no reason, refuse to clean the markets.
“The management sometimes sweeps some places, and sometimes they don’t, sometimes, for example when we leave dirt in the dustbin, when you come back the next morning you will meet it like that and they are supposed to work on it because if you go to some other markets, like Garki, they clean everywhere, at least to an extent. We have been paying N72,000 every year as service charge because they said they would use the money to pay for security and cleaners, but we are not seeing the results of the charges.
“During the rainy season, the income is different, coupled with where the country has found itself in this economic recession. This January, I was cashing out the best way I could, but the rain has just added to the problem.
“There are no more means of cashing out any goods, this is 11am and I have not really sold anything tangible to people that carry goods from me, I know how much I used to make before the rainy weather came. Presently, if I tell you how much I have now, you will tell me to close this shop and look for something else to do because it is not encouraging at all.
“January was better because that time we had the Christmas and New Year period but now we have to manage with what comes to us, everybody has gone back to their various states and abode,” he said.
In this same vein, Mama Ngozi, who sells soup condiments at Wuse Market, told our correspondent that traders in the market try their best to clean up their areas before they commence business for the day but along the way, due to movement and market activities, when one visits midday the place would have been covered with dirt.
She blamed the dirty state of the market on customers and human activities, “we clean, sweep the market every day, of which we even have a designated sanitation day. that day, no one opens his or her stall until the whole market has been cleaned up.
“We do not like a dirty place either, we have families at home that want us safe, strong and healthy but, at times, after we have done our bit it is hard to really access where the dirt begins to emanate from either the buyers, or the sellers but we know some people eat and throw things on the floor, without using the trash bins,” she said.
However, Mama Ngozi urged the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) to intensify its efforts on cleaning markets, adding that they are willing to work and abide by the rules put in place to maintain better hygiene and improve the state of the market.
The Kubwa Market is also notorious for its filth, as huge garbage heaps are a common feature at the entrance to the market. Though waste collection is more coordinated at the Olajumoke Akinjide ultra-modern market at Dutse Alhaji, the collection of refuse at the edge of the market does not only constitute health hazards to customers, but is also an eyesore to passersby.
While some customers may be blamed for contributing in making the markets dirty, investigations have shown that most traders would rather dump the refuse collected from their stalls into the gutters and waterways of the market than to pay for them to be moved.
These unwholesome activities are worse in the rainy season when the rains are expected to move the refuse from the markets to a central point. Years of such practices have clogged the canals, leaving the refuse right where it was dumped.
A resident, Mr. Tamuna, who was buying meat from the abattoir at Wuse Market dismissed claims that buyers should be held responsible for the state of the market. He said it is unrealistic for traders to accuse a person who spends less than one hour at a place of mishandling refuse, compared to the traders who spend over 10 hours in the market.
HE said, “How can anyone say the buyers litter the market when we spend such little time here? I come in buy and leave immediately. Most people do not want to stay longer than usual because of the dirtiness of the market. At some point, I do not bargain for long because I need to leave as soon as I get here.”
He also attributed the dirtiness to the rainy season, unlike the dry season when the sun is hot and would quickly dry up the mud and muck.
“I think that we need a clean market environment. Whoever has been saddled with this responsibility should live up to it. We do not need to eat and die but eat and live, not all of us can patronise the supermarkets, which should be the alternative, and some of us do not even like to shop at supermarkets where we cannot bargain,” he said.
Aside from the filth, most of the markets, except for the ultra-modern ones, are in a deplorable state due to the lack of maintenance and respect for basic hygiene rules by both buyers and sellers. For instance, most of the markets in Abuja had no functional incinerators where dirt is collected and burnt at the end of the day. Most of the markets also do not have toilets, and where these are available they are in terrible condition so that they can hardly be put to use.
Attempts to speak with the management of Garki Market were to no avail, as the executive was said to be undergoing a transitional process.
Lending his voice to the issue, Rabiu Ibrahim, a wheelbarrow pusher, said the rain has made him suffer setbacks, because most buyers refuse to patronise him and his colleagues to help them carry goods they bought because of the frequent rains.
Similarly, some motor parks in the FCT have suffered setbacks because of the rainy weather. The influx of travellers has reduced due to the consistent rain that has made the parks very muddy and uneasy to access.
Secretary of Jabi Motor Park, “Long Journey Unit,” Mr. Isa Suleiman, stressed the need for passengers to think about their safety first before patronising other parks just because of the muddy nature of the Jabi park.
Suleiman noted that passengers recently prefer vehicles loading along the roadside rather than coming inside the park due to the muddy ground caused by rain.
“They would rather board vehicles that would carry them along the road, but the main problem with these passengers is that, when they misplace their luggage, it would show them that the garage is better than the roadside. They will think that because we did not tar our road they should (patronise vehicles by the roadside) without thinking about the implications.
“In January when it was not raining, the influx of people was too much, obviously, because it was the festive period. During the process of loading, we could load up to five vehicles at once in minutes but now the rain has drastically reduced the income we make around here,” he said.
One of the travellers who was planning to board a vehicle going to Kaduna from Jabi Park, Farida Abdulhameed, said she would rather travel from the park, noting that the rain cannot be a problem that would make her board a vehicle that would be expensive.
According to Abdulhameed, “Why would I go to the roadside to board a vehicle that might not guarantee my safety and is going through Kaduna Road that is dangerous? I would rather go via the available Abuja to Kaduna train system. It is even cheaper.
“I am so used to this Jabi park and I have never had any trouble on the road to Kaduna even with the series of kidnapping happening on that road. The rain will stop soon, it is nature and I can live with that.”