The demolition of Sabon Gari and Danmagaji markets in Zaria, Kaduna State, has caused a lot of hardship for many shop owners and residents, who depend on the activities of the displaced traders for survival, Daily Trust Saturday reports.
Hundreds of traders and artisans who eke out a living in the Sabon Gari and Danmagaji markets of Zaria are now left wandering. The major dilemma of the affected persons is the absence of alternative spaces to relocate their trades. This is haunting not only their capital but even their day-to-day lives.
Some of the traders interviewed by our correspondent urged the Kaduna State Government to consider their plight and come up with palliatives that would cushion the “hard” condition they found themselves in following the demolition of their means of livelihood.
Daily Trust Saturday learnt that proposal for the modernisation of both markets has been in place for many years. However, it became more prominent during the administration of Alhaji Namadi Sambo as the governor of the state.
Investigation revealed that some of the properties owned by individuals in the markets were bought by the state government. However, houses located at the centre of the Sabon Gari market, initially owned by the state government, were allegedly sold to the Sabon Gari Local Government Council.
It was further gathered that, subsequently, these houses were reportedly sold to some traders by the local government and plazas were constructed in the middle of the market.
Consequently, according to findings, some shop owners and those that constructed the plazas are now complaining over nonpayment of compensation after spending millions of naira to acquire the lands from the local government council. They said it was after “legally” acquiring the lands that they erected the stalls that were recently pulled down by the state government.
Daily Trust Saturday, however, gathered that the shop owners and others who are laying claim to properties in the market allegedly paid monies into a private account of an “errand boy” of the then chairman of the Sabon Gari Local Government instead of the council’s official account. Some traders even paid in cash.
When these traders were served with quit notice, it emerged that there was no record of their payment at the Sabon Gari Local Government secretariat.
“I envisaged this. This was why, when they asked us to pay the money in cash, I insisted on paying into an account as that is the only way I can have a proof. This was why, when we went to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the ‘errand boy’ of the chairman denied receiving money from us, his account statement proved otherwise.
“What I want you to understand is that if the local government did not sell the houses to us, do you think it would be possible for us to go ahead and construct plazas on the land and went ahead to operate such plazas for many years before now? What we are just appealing for now is justice. If some local government officials have committed certain atrocities in the past, we shouldn’t be made to pay for their actions. We are just appealing for compensation to allow us resettle in other places and continue with our businesses,” one of the owners of the demolished plazas said.
On the other hand, after the expiration of notice given to the traders, the state government mobilised its bulldozers and pulled down shops in parts of the affected markets.
Malam Sani Abdullahi, one of the traders whose shops were demolished, described moves by the government to modernise markets in the state as a welcome development. He, however, added, “The state government needs to take into consideration, the fact that this is our only means of livelihood. Therefore, our plight, being law abiding citizens who engage in genuine efforts of earning a decent living, needs to be given a serious consideration. Many of us here don’t have another place to go as an alternative. The Sabon Gari township stadium provided by government cannot even accommodate 30per cent of those displaced by the demolition.
“Apart from that, the temporary shops the government promised to erect were not done and people were asked to go to an open field. Some of us that are petty traders cannot afford erecting new shops because our capital cannot afford that. We are now in a serious crisis because we were deprived of our only means of survival. I think it is always proper for the government to brainstorm over some of the damning consequences of its policies before it begins to implement them.”
He appealed to Governor Nasir el-Rufa’i to look into the plight of the affected traders.
Another trader in the Sabon Gari market, Alhaji Sani Yusha’u, also known as Quarter-Million, said most of the traders acknowledged the fact that the reconstruction of the markets was a good move that would bring about development if well executed.
He, however, faulted the government for not making adequate arrangements to mitigate the hardship the demolition would subject the affected traders to.
Yusha’u said, “Measures should also be put in place to ensure fair and equitable distribution of the shops after the completion of the construction work. I am sure that if the government is able to finish this work at the stated time and the shops are fairly distributed, the governor would write his name in gold.
“People like us who have houses that were collected by the government should be considered in the allocation of shops. We did not resist when the government showed its intention to take over our houses. We are law abiding, therefore, we cannot challenge the government on its move to bring about development. But immediate measures should be taken to bring succour to those who are stranded following the demotion of their shops.”
He explained that many traders relied heavily on companies and wholesalers who supplied goods to them on credit, but they would no longer do business with them due to the demolition of part of the Sabon Gari market.
“When you go round parts of the market that were left you would see most of us sleeping, either because there are no buyers or the shops are empty due to the refusal of companies and wholesalers to supply us goods on credit. Businessmen in Sabon Gari are in serious problem. We appeal to the government to look into our case with a kind heart,” he added.
A trader, Malam Isa Kofa, said he had been in the Sabon Gari market for over 40 years, but his shop was one of those demolished. He described his present condition as pathetic, saying he needs prayers.
“The only thing we are doing now is reciting Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihir raji’uun (We are from Allah and to him we shall certainly return). Words cannot explain our predicament. Some of us can no longer feed their families. We now live on what I call daily ‘survival.’ This means that we come out in the morning and start struggling for what to take home in the evening. Most of us didn’t have what to eat the next day, even when we were fully at the market, so it is obvious that we are now in a bigger problem.
“The problem now is: Even if government finishes constructing the markets, who among us has the money to make the initial 10per cent payment? Therefore, even if the government is ready to consider us, constraint of money would make other people to take over our shops. Government can assist us in two ways because we are citizens and I am sure all its programmes are meant to positively touch our lives.
“One of the ways government would assist us out of our present challenge is by providing us with alternative spaces to continue with our daily struggle. The Sabon Gari township stadium is too small to accommodate all of us. Secondly, government should start thinking of how to assist petty traders that have shops but cannot afford the initial payment of 10per cent as would be required upon completion of the market reconstruction.”
One of the owners of the plazas pulled down at the Sabon Gari market who did not want his name mentioned, said the state government acted on hearsay and swiftly demolished their shops without payment of any compensation.
“We diligently followed due process in acquiring the land and in the construction of the plazas. Therefore, when the state government indicated intention to reconstruct the market, we did not raise an eyebrow because we know that this government pays compensation to owners of properties whenever it is going to embark on developmental projects.
“However, in our case, the state government acted on hearsay and moved in quickly to demolish our properties. Some people went to tell them that we were planning to go to court to obtain injunction that would stop the demolition of our plazas. I swear to Allah that it is not true. The demolition started in our plazas and nothing was paid to us as compensation. We are appealing for justice. We were the people that elected this government, therefore, it would be unfair to make us its victims. We are now the laughing stocks of those who opposed their election,” he said.
At the Danmagaji market, our correspondent observed that many of the “displaced” traders have moved to places in the market to continue their trading activities.
Our correspondent saw some of the traders, especially those selling vegetables, under the Danmagaji bridge on the Kano-Zaria expressway. Others have erected temporary shops in front of the demolished market.
The traders described their decision as part of efforts to survive through legitimate means. “The government has taken over our means of livelihood and we cannot fold our hands and allow hunger to kill us. At least we did not steal anybody’s property. If the government that is supposed to assist you in getting means of livelihood decides to deprive you of the one you have, what else can you do?
“The state government should do things with the fear of Allah. They should execute their policies with utmost consideration of those that would be negatively affected. As citizens we have the right to survive through legal means and government has the responsibility to guarantee that.
“How this government is using force and intimidation to achieve certain objectives is not proper. Everything has time. Those before them had done theirs, but when their appointed time came, they were unceremoniously voted out,” one of the traders at Danmagaji market said.
The chairman of the Sabon Gari Traders Association, who is serving as the link between the state government and his members, said the reconstruction of the market would be done in phases.
Alhaji Ibrahim Mai-Gwal said work had commenced on the first phase and all affected traders would be considered during allocation, upon the completion of the reconstruction exercise.
He said traders would be required to purchase forms and state the type and category of shops they desire.
“They will be required to make 10per cent payment of the cost of the shops they want. When the work is completed, priority would be given to owners of shops that were demolished. We are taking record of these people and justice will be done at the end of the day. Nobody would be cheated or denied his right. This is why we are calling for calm,” Mai-Gwal said.
Daily Trust Saturday observed that at the Sabon Gari market, most of the traders whose shops were demolished now share shops with fellow traders to earn a living.
Also, some of the affected traders now display their goods in available stalls while others have moved to nearby houses to either rent the attached shops or display their goods in open spaces.
At Danmagaji, Daily Trust Saturday observed that construction of new market has commenced. But at the Sabon Gari market, only workers and bulldozers were seen clearing the site of the demolished shops.
Traders at Sabon Gari and Danmagaji markets are eagerly waiting for a timely reconstruction of the shops to enable them go back to business. They are also hoping that after completion, allocation would be done transparently and the path of justice followed.