By Henry Umoru
THE Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA)Â Â Wednesday shut the largest market in Abuja located at Garki area of the Federal Capital Territory under wise known as â€œMonday marketâ€ over what the administration described as failure to pay a debt of N49 million for sanitation and maintenance services.
Following the forced closure before their very eyes, the traders took to the streets with placards protesting the illegal closure of their market.
Speaking at the site, the Director, Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB), Dr. Abubakar Yabo who noted that it has became imperative for the management to close the market because of poor sanitation situation of the market, said there was the need to avert possible outbreak of epidemic in the nationâ€™s capital city.
Yabo who was represented by AEPB Deputy Director, Mrs. Aishat Adebayo and escorted by heavily armed Anti-riot Police SquadÂ admitted that the traders were not given notice before shutting down the market, saying that the market management was aware of the action taken by the FCT administration in sanitizing the market.
According to Yabo, the Abuja Markets Management Limited (AMML) has been having problem managing the market as the traders were not paying the service charges to maintain the marking, just as he saidÂ â€œthat is why the sanitation situation has deterioratedâ€, adding that the market has been closed indefinitely until things were sorted out.
He however directed that the market management should go and work out programme on how the market would be properly organised and regulated to ensure that the problem of sanitation does not come up again.
Reacting, the AMML spokesperson, Innocent Amaechina who explained that the market deteriorated to the present level because traders refused to pay for services rendered, said, â€œWe have not been working optimally because since we took over in August 2006, the traders have not been paying their bills. What they are owing is up to N49 million. The key service here is sanitation that is evacuation of garbage.â€
Contradicting what the Director said that the market management was aware of the exercise, the PRO said they were not aware, but only came to the market and be told that Garki market was shut down.
Amaechina blamed the problem on an association known as Garki Modern Market Association (GAMA) that has formed itself into a unionist and paraded itself as the association in charge of the market, intimidating and collecting illegal fees from traders to the detriment of the market.
According to him, â€œthey collect money from the traders, as am speaking with you now, Garki market has over N20 million outstanding NEPA bills, which the association is suppose to render. When we came the bill was N16 million that was in 2006, instead of the bill decreasing it is increasingâ€.