By Stanley Onyekwere
The aggrieved traders and shop owners of Utako market to return to the round table and continue on the path of finding lasting solution to the controversial market upgrading exercise, which sparked off strong protest against the developers.
This call was made by the Permanent Secretary FCTA, Christian Chinyeaka Ohaa, yesterday during a meeting with authorities of Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) and leadership of National Association of Nigerian Traders, FCT Chapter.
He charged them to bring all their grievances with an open mind to discuss as stakeholders in the Abuja project, but not to insist on having things done their own way.
It was gathered that the traders had since Monday stormed the FCTA Secretariat, protesting planned upgrading of the market by AMAC alleging a plot to take the shops away from them after completion of the remodeling, during which the FCT Administration had called for a dialogue.
However, Ohaa repeatedly assured traders that no one would shortchange them by taking their shops away unduly in the course of upgrading the Utako market.
“Bring your people who are competent so that your interest will be protected. We believe in justice, due process.
“Nigeria is big enough to accommodate all of us. The developer assured us that no one will lose his shop.
“Government is a progressive change, and so is life. We are running an open government and our doors are open and I will not superintend over injustice,” the Permanent Secretary.
He adds: “This is government of change; let us move Nigeria forward. Abuja is the city of unity; our forefathers agreed it should be a place of unity for everyone.
“The FCTA would ensure security of lives of all residents, in all places, including the markets, churches and mosques at all times, especially during festive seasons.”
Furthermore, the Permanent Secretary urged the traders not to be selfish, but also consider others’ interests and allow work to continue on site.
He disclosed that he had visited the market and observed that business activities and construction work could go on simultaneously.
He therefore directed the whole team, made up of the FCT and Lagos chapters, Ohanaeze FCT and others to pay a visit to the market for firsthand information and to confirm things for themselves and report back to him.
On his part, representative of the Utako market developer, Engr. Rabiu Sa’id also reassured concerned shop owners that they would all get their shops even before commencement of sale of the new shops to the public.
Rabiu also revealed that the remodeling would provide 2,100 shops, tripling the existing number of shops in the market, in addition to the construction of a multi-level car park that could accommodate 1,500 cars.
His words: “No traders 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 shortchanging anyone does not arise, at all.”
Also speaking, Chairman, Utako market Traders Association, Nelson Onwuemeodo, expressed happiness over the meeting convened at the instance of the Permanent Secretary, as it shows that their expressed worries are attracting the right attention.
He appealed that the traders interest be protected by the government during and after the construction exercise, adding that many of them got loans to acquire the shops and the goods in them.
He equally appealed for the developer to temporary halt further development activities on the site, to allow them sell during the yuletide season.