“Business was booming before as customers had easy access in and out of the market so patronage was high. But now due to lack of parking lot, customers are scared of coming to the market as they do not know where to park their cars.
We are losing customers who now patronise other markets than risk parking their cars by the roadside here,” Mr. Amaechi Chukwuma, a trader at Utako Ultra-Modern Market said.
“About two months ago, a car was stolen in this market,” he added.
He also claimed the traffic jam was a recent development and blamed it on the construction of a new structure in the market in an area that previously served as parking lot.
“I have spent three years in this market and everything was going on very fine. The recent traffic jam is because of the structure they are building in the market. That’s the challenge we are having here,” he said.
Ekukinam Street and most streets around the market have become congested with motorists scrambling to get parking space by the roadside.
Our reporters observed that those who could not park properly or close to the market had to get one of the boys hanging around to watch over their cars while they dashed into the market to shop.
A shopper at the market, Suleiman Tanko, also expressed concern over the situation. “I am feeling disturbed because people park wrongly and that causes traffic jam around the market. Besides, there are reported cases of hoodlums stealing cars or breaking into cars to steal valuables like stereos.
“The situation is so bad that you cannot park and leave your car without a watch. When you are going inside the market, you have to get somebody to look over your car if not they will steal it or the car stereo,” he said.
Tanko said the ongoing construction of shops on the space that was previously used for parking lot has complicated the situation further.
Madam Chioma, another trader, blamed AMAC officials for not planning properly, which is now affecting patronage at the market.
“How can you change a parking space to a building without considering the consequences. Lack of parking space has driven customers away from the market. If they park outside the market, thieves burgle their cars since there is no security. The government should come up with a better plan to clear the present congestion we are experiencing on the road to the market,” she said.
Mr. Adebayo Adeyinka who identified himself as a revenue officer working with the market authorities also lamented the situation saying, “there is no parking lot in this market and since this is a busy area, we experience traffic congestion every day.”
Our reporters gathered that the AMAC authorities have cashed in on the situation to generate more revenue.
Mr. Kola Lawal who identified himself as an official of AMAC at the market said, “Shoppers coming into the market park their cars by the roadside and we issue them a receipt of N100 each which goes into the purse of AMAC. We stay by the car to act as security. But parking by the roadside makes the road narrower thereby increasing traffic congestion,” he added.
The Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) information officer, Patience Olaloye, said the market is being upgraded.
“They are doing an upgrading of the market. The project has been on,” she said and told to our reporter to visit the council and talk to the Head of Works Department.
Meanwhile the developer handling the market, MN Ataj Construction Limited, has reportedly said the remodelling will be in phases and that the market will not be demolished.
The director of the construction company, Engr. Rabiu Sa’id, said “we are about to start the actual construction work, it will be in phases; three phases in all. We are not going to demolish the market, we will start from the vacant parking space in front of the market then we move on.
“No doubt the present structures and layout of Utako market is dangerous and does not provide a safe and conducive business environment. The remodelling will bring about a modern, safe business environment befitting the status of FCT.
“Nobody will be displaced from the market, and we are going to have multi-level car park and introduce lift in all the blocks which are linked together by special corridors in the market,” he said recently while talking to journalists.