By Amaechi Agbo.
Time, they say, is the greatest healer of wound no matter how deep the wound is; but that cannot be said about the traders of Kubwa Village Market in Abuja whose shops where demolished in November 2016.
According to Ifeanyi Ozoemene, who spoke with our editor, Amaechi Agbo, this morning, said it has been a case of “from grace to grass” for the affected former shop owners as the developer and the Bwari Area Council have reneged in all the agreements they reached with the shop owners and threw them out of the market even though the building is at foundation level.
Mr Ifeanyi who said that he and his fellow affected shop owners are suffering, lamented that while the new shops are still at the foundation level, further alleged that “the whole shops have been sold to outsiders who knew nothing about the market”.
Mr Ifeanyi who said he owned a transformer in the shop as a cold-room owner, said that due to the demolition, he now sells rice and garri along the road in order to provide food for his family. He however called on the developer and the area council to reconsider their policy with a view to helping the former shop owners get shops when the building is completed.
I have been in the Kubwa Village Market for over 14 years. The market has been favouring me, to be honest. I am from Akwa South LGA in Anambra State.
I was managing a cold-room for my boss then and I was doing well. Later on, I bought it over from my boss. Due to the amount of energy needed to power my machines, I bought a transformer.
I was selling meats, chicken and ice fish but now I am selling rice and garri. Things have been difficult for me. I am now on the road, selling garri and rice, waiting for the completion of the building to see if I can regain my shop. It is like from grace to grass for me. I was not the only one using the transformer; I shared it with my colleagues. They did not pay me rather we paid NEPA bill together. All of us shared the bill.
To be sincere, things are very, very difficult for us. Right now I have not seeing where to fix the cold-room again. I packed the machines somewhere, waiting and looking for where to fix them again.
Agreements before demolition.
Before the demolition, we had an agreement with the developer and the local government, through court ruling, that shop owners in the market will be given preferential consideration. In fact, we had a meeting with the developer initially were it was agreed that shop owners will pay N1 million to get a shop while tenants will pay N1.5 million to get a shop after the building of the new market.
We also agreed that the payment should be made in three years at 30% rate each. Unfortunately, they reneged and later told us that the shops will be sold out-rightly at N4.150 million for a locked up shop while open–space shops will be sold at N925, 000 each. Where do the poor ones get these monies from?
We were given quit notice before the demolition. In fact, the demolition story has been on for more than three years until now. But they told us that it was going to be in batches. That one section will be demolished and built, then traders in the undemolished section will pack into the built one and then they would demolish the other section traders had left. Unfortunately, when they came, they demolished the whole market at once.
Shops sold out
As if that is not bad enough, as I am talking with you now, the whole shops have been sold out. You can see that it is still at the foundation level, but I am telling you that they have all been bought over. Sadly, they were sold to outsiders; people who have never been to this market. Most of us in the market who do not have the money did not get anything.
Not to sell to outsiders
Initially, we also reached an agreement with them that the shops should not be sold to outsiders, which they agreed to. The agreement was that after the former shop owners have been settled in terms of buying their own shops, then the outsiders will be given the opportunity to come in and buy. But today, that was never followed. None of the agreements we had with the developer and the Area Council was adhered to.
Most of the buyers are politicians who do not know anything about the market but because they have cash, we are now treated like animals. This is wickedness. This country has no place for the poor but God is not dead.
Currently, I am making effort to get a shop in the new market under construction and I am trusting God that I will succeed.
My plea to government and the developer
I want to tell the developer and the government to know that we are suffering. A lot of people have been made poorer and wretched by this action. In fact, I know seven people already who are my friends and they have relocated to the village. Many are here doing nothing, they have been rendered useless and hopeless.
The authority should consider the poor in this case. The implication of the demolition and subsequent renege in the agreements we had is that many will go into crime and other social vices.
We are suffering; we are dying.
I was managing a cold-room before but now I am outside, under the sun, selling rice and garri. I am suffering; my children and family are suffering. This is not the life I desired to live. My children are hungry and I must provide for my family. The people in the authority should reconsider their stand and look into the plights of the affected former shop owners in the market.
My major priority here now is to feed my family. Whether business is going or not, my family must eat. I don’t want to believe that it will come to that worse where I cannot provide food for my family, God forbid.
I feel pain when customers call me and request for fish or meat. I do cry in the night because my life now is not what I thought of. We are dying.