Hundreds of aggrieved traders in the busy Utako market in the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) on Tuesday halted activities within the area, when they staged a protest against demolition and sealing of the market for upgrade.
In particular, traders abandoned their shops and picked up placards with various inscriptions, protesting within and outside the market, while security operatives barricaded entrance to the market.
During the protest, the aggrieved traders specifically demanded justice over alleged plan by AMAC to dislodge them and the market from them, following commencement of demolition exercise since Sunday (December 3), and subsequent sealing of the place to pave way for upgrade the market.
According to the Chairman of Utako Shops Owners and Traders Market Association, Mr. Nelson Onwuemeodo, the market AMAC planned to upgrade or demolished was not built by the council.
He maintained that the traders were shocked when they saw police officers and bulldozers brought into the market by the council without prior notice.
He argued that AMAC only allocated the empty land for us while the traders built the market based on the council’s design and strict supervision.
“If the government desires to build a new market, let them go and build.
“But if they are bent on destroying the market, let them bring a valuer and pay us the worth of the shops,” he said.
He insisted that the council never invited the traders for negotiation before moving in with police and engineers for demolition of the market.
He added that the traders had not been enjoying the dividends of democracy and they were not being covered by the government, yet paid their taxes.
Similarly, women leader of the market, Mrs. Zainab Salisu, urged AMAC chairman not to renege on his promise of delivering the dividends of democracy to the residents.
According to her, a situation where the AMAC council leadership would make promises and back out, would not augur well for the hapless traders, who are struggling to survive.
Meanwhile, reacting to the development, AMAC Chairman, Abdullahi Adamu Candido, who dismissed the alleged take over move, assured shop owners at the Utako market that no trader would be short-changed, after remodeling of the market.
He said under his watch, no traders would be short-changed and no new person would be allocated unless all the allottees were given shops.
He further said that the marketers had no cause for alarm as nobody would be displaced because of the upgrading.
He argued that the market was an eyesore in the nation’s capital, stressing that he was poised to reposition the market and protect the lives and property of the traders.
According to him, the redevelopment will start with the space that is not occupied, we don’t want to affect anybody’s source of livelihood, which is why we are avoiding to relocate the market.
“We do not want crisis, we do not want a single soul to be lost, the presence of the police is to protect lives and properties,” he stated.
Idu Jude, Abuja