The Suleja Modern Market in Niger State, officially referred to as IBB Market, is rated as one of the busiest markets in the whole North-Central states. Built by the state government under the administration of Colonel Lawal Gwadabe (rtd), the facility was commissioned by then President Ibrahim Babangida in 1991, and later transferred to the Suleja council authority.
The IBB Market became popular for cheaper goods, thereby attracting thousands of customers from different parts of the state, the FCT and beyond for wholesale and retail transactions. Daily Trust Saturday learnt that the market which has the potential to attract major revenue to the council, and even the state, is yet to realize its dull potentials due to the lack of sanity in its revenue generation.
There has been a lot of distortion of the market’s original plan. Additional shops have been created on spaces meant for parking vehicles. Almost all the available roads within the market are no longer accessible by trucks and heavy duty vehicles such as those for fire fighting.
Shops have been attached to the fence that surrounds the market, while the available road space is occupied by what seems to be permanent roadside traders who operate on wheel barrows, tables or on the ground. These activities have led to the little access roads being highly congested, with traders and shoppers finding it extremely difficult to navigate the market.
A number of traders interviewed by Daily Trust Saturday lamented that they do not see the corresponding effect of the taxes they pay to the council as well as the state government, on annual and monthly bases. They lament the congested state of the market as well as insecurity from activities of thugs and miscreants, who have their base adjacent the market, where illicit drugs are allegedly sold in the open.
There are also allegations of ghost taxes in the system. Some revenue officials interviewed alleged that the revenue from roadside traders, which was described as more expensive because the traders operate illegally, goes to some powerful and influential persons associated with any government of the day, instead of being channeled to government coffers.
Our reporter, who visited the revenue office under Suleja council within the market, was not attended to by the office secretary on duty. The official rather referred him to the overall Revenue Officer of the council Malam Sani Hussaini, whose office is located inside the council secretariat.
The revenue officer also declined comment on the allegations, explaining that authorization to speak on such matters could only be granted with the approval of the council boss, following a written application.
Malam Hassan Muhammad Maizabi is the deputy director of primary health care, a department responsible with any environmental issue under the council.
He said the issue of congestion on roads within and around the market was primarily caused by Suleja’s proximity to the Federal Capital Territory, FCT. He said there is constant movement of people between the town and the nation’s capital city on daily basis.
He said the issue needs special intervention from the federal government who, he said, has benefited a lot from Suleja and Niger State at large, for ceding its land to pave way for the establishment of Abuja as the new seat of power.
When asked about the activities of roadside traders in and around the market, the environmental chief pointed out that their hands are tied on that issue.
He maintains that even though the law which established the agency has empowered them to eject such road side traders, he added that enforcement requires an endorsement from the council chairman, due to the revenue potentials.
He explained that the immediate past council boss, Architect Hussaini Ladan, who left office just two week ago following a court verdict to that effect, was in the process of dealing with the issue.
“He raised a joint committee comprising our department and others to look for an alternative area for the roadside traders. We were on top of the situation when he was kicked out of office.”
Some traders interviewed lamented that they find it very difficult to bring in goods into the market, as most of the motorists turn down their requests, in order to avoid the various types of charges by the government agents.
A motorist, Abdullahi Musa, said despite the fact that he pays for various types of stickers, he pays more money for taking goods around the market area, which lacks parking space.
Meanwhile, efforts to speak to the council chairman, Malam Abdullahi Maje, were not successful. When our reporter visited the council secretariat, penultimate week, the chairman who was seen coming out of a meeting declined to grant an interview on the issue, as he said he was on his way to Minna, the state capital.
Various efforts to get him on phone were equally not successful.
Another visit to the office last Monday, however, revealed that the chairman has not been attending to official functions due to a court ruling that gave a stay of execution on the ongoing leadership tussle between him and Ladan.