By Victoria Ojeme
Four years ago, Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) asked occupiers of stalls at Karu market to move out to enable it renovate the market that has unarguably fallen into disrepair , with stall owners and customers alike facing dire environmental challenges.Apart from the perennial flooding that often caused pool of stagnant and odorous water , the sanitation situation got authorities worried about a major epidemic; so, understandably, many people including shop owners and residents who patronize the Karu market, saw reason on the need to renovate the market.
Original owners of the stalls who desired to move back to the market, as learnt by Sunday Vanguard,were also asked to pay a deposit of N200,000, with the assurance of moving back into the market in 12 months.But four years later, when majority of those who paid the initial deposit of N200,000, faced with no place to sell their wares, after waiting on the authorities of AMAC to live up to their promise of renovating the market in record time, had to move back into the uncompleted stalls.
Investigations revealed that the allottees were shocked at the quality of the stalls, going by the promises made of block stalls.
When Sunday Vanguard visited the market, it was discovered that the stalls were constructed with zinc, said to be prone to heat. It was revealed that majority of traders who deposited N200,000 with the hope of occupying their stalls in good time have since taken up residence in the stalls, owing to what some of them explained as their homelessness, as a result of investing all they had in paying for the shop.
Some of the shop owners also complained of extortion by policemen drafted to the market to secure it, with shops , which have been turned into residence by the allottees made to pay about N500 daily as protection fee, while those who only come to trade and go are required to pay N300.One of the shop owners, who confirmed the development, Hajia Ramatu Yusuf, lamented, “They moved us out of the former place and asked us to come to this place. It is four years now, and we have not moved into any of the shops.
“How can somebody put together a shop with zinc instead of blocks, and expect human beings to stay in side? Very soon we will be entering hot season where meningitis will be flying all over the place.“Apart from rain destroying our properties, the police come to this market every day to collect money from us and these are shops that are yet to be completed.
“All we are asking the authority to do now is to complete the buildings and start allocating it to the rightful owners”.
On the health challenges in the market, a trader, who did not want her name mentioned, said, “As you can see, the market is worse than it was before we were asked to move out to enable them renovate.
“Now, you have stagnant water everywhere and the whole place is smelly. Infact, I would be surprised if epidemic does not break out soon.
Then you can also see that some people are living inside the shops. Of course, since the shops are built with zinc, you know that hot season could bring about meningitis for those who choose to live in the stalls”, she said.
A trader who lives inside one of the shops, Mrs Ruth Adakole, said, “I am living here because I have no other place to live. I am a widow and I paid for the shop with the little money I had. We were told that the shops will be completed in 12 months.
So, after waiting for one year and faced with no place to live, I had to move into the shop. If the shop had been completed in 12 months, I would have since recouped my investment of N200,000 from which I could have hired a house, but, unfortunately, that is not to be”.
On the fear of meningitis outbreak, Adakole insisted that she had no choice than to move into the shop, saying, “What am I to do? If government can defraud us, innocent and law abiding citizens, what do we do?