The Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) Permanent Secretary, Mr Christian Chinyeaka Ohaa, has urged protesting Utako Market traders and shop owners to return to the negotiating table for an amicable resolution of issues generated by the upgrade of the market by the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC).
The permanent secretary made the appeal at a meeting with the leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Traders, as well as Utako Market Traders Association, yesterday in Abuja.
Mr. Ohaa assured the traders that no one would short-change them or take away their shops unduly in the course of the remodelling exercise estimated at N67 billion.
The meeting was convened in reaction to the protest staged by the traders at the FCTA Secretariat, over the upgrading of the market by AMAC, alleging the exercise was a ploy to take their shops from them.
Ohaa expressed concern over the way and manner the traders pulled out from earlier negotiations and urged them to return to the negotiating table to express their grievances with an open mind as stakeholders in the Abuja project.
His words: “We are committed to ensuring justice and due process. The developers have assured us that no one will lose his shop and we hold them to their words and will not superintend over injustice.”
Mr. Ohaa urged the traders to consider the interest of all parties in the project by allowing work to go on, explaining that he had visited the market and observed that business activities and construction work could go on simultaneously.
The FCTA, he stated, would ensure security of lives in all places, including the markets, churches and mosques at all times, especially during festive season.
The representative of the developer, Engr. Rabiu Sa’id, at the occasion gave assurance to the shop owners that they would all get their shops even before commencement of sale of the new shops to the public.
Engr. Sa’id also revealed that the remodelling would provide 2,100 shops, three times more than the existing number, in addition to a 1500-space multi-level car park.
He said: “No trader will lose his shop. We will spend N67 billion to develop the market, and we have not sold any shop. We will not sell any shop until everybody that has a shop there gets his shop. The issue of short-changing anyone does not arise, at all.”
The Chairman, Utako Market Traders Association, Austin Onwuamado, expressed happiness over the outcome of the meeting while appealing that the traders’ interest be protected by the government during and after the construction exercise.
He explained that most of the traders obtained loans to acquire the shops and the goods in them.
He also appealed to the developers to temporarily halt further development activities on the market to allow the traders sell during the yuletide season, an appeal which did not get the acceptance of other stakeholders.