Pain, anguish and hardship were visited on traders of Garki Market in Abuja last week. It was the bulldozer of the Department of Development Control of the Federal Capital Territory Authority (FCTA) that came calling and reduced shops and stalls to debris.
The exercise was successful largely as a result of the presence of soldiers and other security operatives who were strategically positioned to forestall security breakdown, following the ugly experiences of the past, where FCTA officials were verbally and physically attacked.
It was a chaotic atmosphere at the market. Tears rolled down the cheeks of the affected traders. Enough sympathy and consolation also came from passers-by and other traders who were not affected.
However, there were blames and pointing of accusing fingers between the traders and the FCTA officials. The former had claimed they were never notified of the planned exercise. The latter gave sufficient evidence that it properly notified the affected traders of its planned demolition of their illegal structures.
Garki Market is one of the district markets in Abuja managed by the Abuja Market Management Limited (AMML).
The agency is saddled with the responsibility of managing all markets in Abuja.
The agency said it was left with the only option of pulling down the illegal structures the market after it was con-
firmed that the structures violated the physical planning of the market. Its Legal Adviser, Idachel Felix, disclosed that the affected traders have no allocation papers neither do they have any other proof of legitimate occupation of the shops:
“And besides, their structures contravene the plans of the market, hence the need for demolition. We need to protect the aesthetic and the original master plan of the market. We have repeatedly appealed to the affected traders to vacate the place and get alternative allocation.
But our several appeals have not yielded result. We were however left with the only option of demolition.”
Its Corporate Affairs Manager, Innocent Amechina, attributed the past calamity and inferno in the market to the operations of the traders that occupied the demolished shops: “These traders knew they were occupying illegal structures.
“It is on record that all the fire outbreak recorded in Garki Market over the years originated from these shops. They make illegal electrical connections, by-pass meters and break lay down rules and regulations of the market.”
Traders whose shops were affected lamented the pains and anguish. A trader, Emeka, told Daily Sun that he was badly affected by the demolition:
“I was shocked when I saw large number of security men littered everywhere in the market. I thought there was serious crisis. I never knew it was FCTA officials on mission of demolition until I saw their bulldozer.
“Without prior notification, they pulled down our structures without providing alternative. They couldn’t even allow us to pack our goods before pulling it down. It was our task force officials that were shouting and helping us to pack our goods.
A customer assisted me to pack some of my goods. But some others were stolen by hooligans who took advantage of the chaotic environment.”
A customer, Chika Okwaligwe, said: “It is regrettable that someone will drive round and round before he could find a spot to park. Imagine my frustration when I got to market few days ago and realized that half the parking lot was undergoing some sort of reconstruction. My customers were forced to relocate to pave the way for renovation.”