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Traders groan as El-Rufai’s bulldozers bring down Kasuwan Bacci

A collapsed building where a teenager lost his life at Kasuwar Barci Market
A collapsed building where a teenager lost his life at Kasuwar Barci Market

When, in 2019, the Kaduna State Government demolished Kasuwan Magani in Kajuru Local Government Area of the state and followed it up by bringing down the market structures at the Sabon Gari and Dan Magaji markets in Zaria LGA as well as the Kawo Market in Kaduna North, traders in Kasuwar Barci of Kaduna South knew it was only a matter of time before the government bulldozers turned their attention on them.

Not long after Kawo Market was demolished, the over 40-year-old market structures at Kasuwar Barci equally came down in an exercise that was partly executed by the government and partly done by the traders themselves. Said to be one of the biggest markets within Kaduna metropolis after the Shaikh Gumi Central Market, many traders in Kasuwar Barci were left dumfounded when a 3-day quit notice was issued to them by the state government penultimate Friday. The Kaduna Urban Planning and Development Agency (KAPSUDA) had said the notice was in line with the urban renewal project of the state government even though the traders say they saw the action from a different light; fearing they will lose their shops and may not have access to the modern ones expected to be built by the government.

Located at Tudun Wada, a largely condensed community, most of the shop owners in Kasuwar Barci are residents of Rigasa, Unguwar Sanusi, Sabon Gari, Hayin Malam Bello, Unguwar Mu’azu, Kabala West and other communities ýwithin the metropolis. Despite being one of the oldest markets in the metropolis ýwith over 5000 shops, congestion has caught up with the market, blurring the line between where residential areas start and the market ends.

At the market, Daily Trust reports that there are various sections including those of local fabrics, provisions, tailoring as well as imported fairly used clothes popularly referred to as ‘Gwanjo’. There were also sections for baby wears, shoes as well as grains, meat and other items.

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Traders at Kasuwar barci removing their belongings Photo: Shehu K. Goro
Traders at Kasuwar barci removing their belongings Photo: Shehu K. Goro

However, when El-Rufai came into office in 2015, he had promised to renovate all major markets within the metropolis, a promise he could only keep by demolishing old structures of markets across the state. So, barely 24 hours after the expiration of the notice and while negotiation was still ongoing between KASUPDA and the traders’ union, officials of the agency, accompanied by security personnel stormed the market at the wee hour of Tuesday, March 10, 2020 and demolished few shops as a warning sign to the traders.

Our reporter who visited the market observed that the government’s action had propelled the traders to begin knocking down their own shops to secure items such as doors and windows for fear that they may altogether lose them should the bulldozers return. It was in this process that a building collapsed, claiming the life of a teenager and leaving another critically injured.

Malam Nasiru, a provision seller who owned a shop at Kasuwar Barci told Daily Trust that he would rather resort to self-demolition than wait for KASUPDA to pull down his shop and in the process deny him the opportunity to remove his belongings.

Some traders at Kasuwar Barci resorted to self help by removing doors, windows and building rods of their shops before the demolition
Some traders at Kasuwar Barci resorted to self help by removing doors, windows and building rods of their shops before the demolition

He expressed disappointment that the government had given only three days to the traders to vacate their shops, adding that, “why then will I wait until they arrive with their bulldozers before I leave.  I can’t do what they did to us to my worst enemy without an alternative,” he said.

Malam Nasiru explained that his aged father owned four shops in the markets and had traded in the market for over 40 years. He said his father had hoped that he would pass on the shops to his family at the end of his life but said all his goods have now been evacuated to their family home in Tudun Wada before the family rents a shop.

On his part, Mustapha, a fabric merchant said he equally moved all his fabrics to his home for safe keeping pending when he finds another shop to rent. “My uncle has two shops while I have one. We also have a commercial toilet facility inside the market but all have been demolished out of fear and we have not been given alternatives. This is unfair,” he said.

Though the demolition had briefly halted before other sections such as those who sold fairly used cloth were affected, the traders in that section fear that the partial demolition could expose them to the activities of miscreants who may want to vandalise their shops at night.

Shops turn to rubble as government’s buldozers brought down shops
Shops turn to rubble as government’s buldozers brought down shops

Malam Shehu, who deals in fairly used cloths, said they constantly worry but still remain in their shops even though almost 50 percent of the market has been demolished by other traders. “We are still here praying to God to help us but you see, most of the shops demolished were done by their owners out of fear,” he said.

Sani Mohammed said they had no choice but to self-demolish so they could at least salvage the doors, windows and other building materials which they could either sell or convert to other use. “We worried that we may be at home when they will come for the demolition just as they did the first time by demolishing the shops around 2am,” he said.

The market union under the chairmanship of Alhaji Haruna Dabai had met with the Market Development and Management Company and KASUPDA to find solutions to the issue a day before the commencement of the demolition but the meeting could not stop the bulldozers.

Aftermarth of the traders self-demolition exercise
Aftermarth of the traders self-demolition exercise

“We pleaded with the authorities involved to allow us provide a workable solution that will ease the difficulties our members found themselves,” he said, adding that they had finally discussed how to come up with a workable plan for the demolition to take place in batches.

Director-General of KASUPDA, Alhaji Ismail Umar Dikko, was quoted on a radio station saying the market traders needed to be calm as the agency’s intension towards them was positive and was working to provide alternative markets for the traders.

He also said traders at Kawo Market whose shops were demolished were provided with temporary alternative, as such same will be done to those in Kasuwar Barci.

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