By Oginyi Ruth, Agnes Igwe and Nwogha Ndubuisi Andy
A 75-years-old man, Nweke Titus and other embattled traders of the popular Abakpa Main Market in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State have expressed dismay concerning the quit notice issued to them on 30th July, 2019, by the Chairman of Ebonyi Local Government Area.
The quit notice as obtained by Citizens’ Advocate was signed by the council chairman, Hon. Chinyere Nwogbaga, who gave the traders till 31st of August to quit the market.
The quit notice reads, “I, Hon. Mrs. Chinyere Nwogbaga, Chairman Ebonyi Local Government Area, Ugbodo, your sub-lessor/landlord hereby give you notice to quit and deliver possession of shop 27 Cameroon line, Abakpa Main market, Abakaliki and its appurtenances lying and situate thereby which you hold on lease. This notice shall expire on 31st day of August, 2019.”
While reacting on the notice to quit, Mr. Nweke Titus, who said he procured his shop before the civil war and came to his shop after the war, disclosed that the shop was leased to him by an erstwhile chairman of Ebonyi Local Government Area, Hon. Sunday Adol Awam for thirty years, which is still counting.
“I am from Inyimagu in Izzi Local Government Area. This market is located in our place. It is the people of Inyimagu and Agbaja that owns Abakaliki. When I acquired this shop, it was during the war, until 1967 when the war ended, I came back to the shop. We were paying rate as at then. What we were paying per stall was not up to N50. I came here 1967 and the war ended 1970.”
“Look at my hair, they are all grey. I am 75 years old today. I got married and gave birth to my children here. I am old and they said we should come and pay N3.2 million naira . It was during the regime of Adol Awam that we were given lease to build these shades, and the lease of 30 years is still remaining.”
“We were here today and they came with police and forced us to collect the quit notice. They never asked us to sign the quit notice. What we read from the quit notice is that after 31st of August, they do not want to see us here again. She should give us another shade and allow us to be paying on installment of N500,000.”
Other traders who spoke to journalists were Ozoemena Okoafor and Chukwuemeka Okoye. They deal on crayfish and provisions respectively.
“I am from Nsukka in Enugu. I deal on crayfish in Abakpa market. We do not know why they are asking us to leave the market. We have paid the annual fee and all the necessary fees including business premises fee. The lease they gave to us has not expired, but they are asking us to quit the market. The lease is supposed to expire in the next thirty years.
“They have not shown us any alternative place to go. We were only asked to quit. We need intervention from any quarter, especially those of us who are not from this state.
“I deal on articles. But if we are leaving here, are we going to carry our wares on our heads and be roaming about? I do not know what their intention is. We have paid all market levies for the year, but I do not know why they have asked us to leave. There is no place they have shown us, but they simply asked us to leave”, they said.
In an interview with Eze Christopher Ogbonnaya, Executive Chairman of Abakpa Main Market Traders Association (AMATA), on Wednesday, July 31,2019, he said that the state government had put measures in place to make acquisition of shops at the new International Market easy for traders.
“We are going to Margret Umahi International Market. The state government borrowed money from UBA to build the market, and he asked us to obtain form to become landlords there. You are to pay 50% of the shop.
“The 50% is based on the shop you want to choose. Upstairs is N3 million while down stairs is N3.2 million. Then 50% of it is 1.6 million Naira, then 50% of the other one is N1.5 million. The upstairs warehouse is N2 million Naira then downstairs warehouse is N2.5 million “, he said.
Comrade Christopher Eze stating that the State government directives to relocate from the market to the new international market located at Ogaja Expressway was a welcome development.
He assured traders that the shops are already eighty percent in completion, stressing that before the stipulated period of vacation that the new market must have been ready for the comfort of all traders.
He noted that they had earlier been informed of their relocation since last year, adding that the decision would be in the interest of the entire traders, as it would attract investors to the State.
He pointed out that the Abakpa Main Market was under lease, though the period has not expired but the government has the power to withdraw it when it is in the interest of the traders.
Comr. Eze while decrying that the market is already congested with traders stated that they were given three conditions prior to their relocation.
According to him, “It is true, that things are hard, there is no good soup that is not made with money. Before you do anything that needs money, you have to sacrifice yourself, sacrifice your money before you achieve that goal. Whoever said that he is going to react negatively is doing that on his own capacity. We are just tenants here, government allocates land, you build, and government is collecting money from you every year, are you not a tenant to the government?”
“They are now saying that they want to collect the lease they gave to you. Despite the fact that the lease has not expired, but His Excellency promised that he would compensate those that have shops, he sent former Commissioner for Land and Survey, Prof. John U. Eke, and his team, they went round the market and measured the sizes of our shops. They would pay you compensation based on the number of shops you have and the sizes. We don’t have enough space and that has resulted to traders occupying the asphalted road.”
He added, “There are so many options available now with the Ministry of Commerce, one, if you can be able to raise 320,000 that is 10 percent of the 3.2 million naira and bank will pay the balance for you and secure the shop and give to you, you now continue paying to them gradually until you finish, when you finish with them they give you your C of O.”
“Secondly, for those that feel it is too costly, government would give you land and you pay money for the C of O, interest form, acceptance form and other fees totaling 121,800 naira Whereas, you wait until others pay, and the numbers of shops at that particular line is complete, then the land will be allocated to them to build to the standard of the State government whereas they bear the cost.”
“For those that don’t have money, they can wait, after commissioning the market, you will be a tenant and one can out rightly buy the shop for N3.2 million, upstairs is N3 million, ware house upstairs N2 million, ware house down stairs N2.5 million.”
He added that following the relocation, Abakpa Market would be renovated to a befitting standard as it would serve as food stuff market and enjoined traders to take advantage of the new market as they would not regret the government action.
Speaking with some of the traders, Mr. Eze Ogbonnaya Okorafor, aka, Marshal, a phone accessories dealer at No 23 Gunning road, appreciated the State government for the initiative, stating that it would boost the economy of the State, and attract foreign investors to the area.
Another trader, Mr. Chibuike Elem applauded Umahi led government for taking the bold step to relocate the traders to the long awaited international market.
He called on others to take drastic action in ensuring that they secure a shop in the market.
When our correspondent visited the market, it was discovered that the market is 80 percent completed, as workers were seen fixing doors and tiling the shops. About 12 shops were at roofing stage.