Abuja, the Federal Capital of Nigeria is a peculiar city in several aspects. One of the peculiarities of Abuja is that it is subdivided into districts. Thus the neighbourhoods are in clusters of fully independent communities next to each. These communities are then linked by an ever-widening network of world-class roads. In Abuja’s original masterplan, each neighbourhood or district has its own hospital, schools (primary and secondary), neighbourhood park and market or shopping area.
Expectedly, most of these neighbourhoods have grown and are now interdependent on each other, however, they still retain their individual identities, if only in name.
One of such neighbourhoods is Wuye district. Wuye is fairly new as districts go, and its development has not been as rapid as earlier districts like Garki and Wuse or even Maitama and Asokoro. This is not entirely surprising all things considered. Nonetheless, Wuye is growing and gradually becoming a vibrant neighbourhood. Rent is steadily climbing into the sky, though still much lower than the other districts. Private schools have sprung up and there is a fledgling public school which is a story for another day.
As noted above, one of the features of every district is a market or shopping centre. Most of these are government projects, built and allocated to traders for a fee or sold outright. Several years ago, a
flea market arose somewhere in Wuse district and it grew so rapidly and uncontrollably that it became an eyesore and a source of discomfort for the government and residents alike. In responding to the threat that this ‘illegal’ market presented, government decided in its ‘wisdom’ that the traders would be relocated to a different market which at the time was not in existence. Wuye, was the chosen market. Government went ahead to sell allocations to traders in the erstwhile market and allocated a piece of land for the construction of same. But that was as far as the story went for a long time. To cut a long story short, a private developer won the competitive bid to develop the market on a Build-operate-and Transfer (BOT) arrangement. The developer then went ahead to build the market and reportedly advertised it for sale at 30% completion. The original allottees from the old market refused to interest at that time believing that they had an incontestable right to the market stalls. What they refused to take into account however, was the market was not being funded by the government and the developer, being a commercial enterprise would want to recover their money back. The developer went ahead and sold the shops to interested members of the public.
Fast forward to present day. Market was completed and commissioned by President Goodluck Jonathan. Everything done beautifully to very high standards including access roads, perimeter fencing, everything required to make a market function. But the market remains shut. Why?
The government allottees insist that they must be the only ones to occupy the market and they took the developer to court to contest the sale of the shops which happened a while ago. Today the market is shut and everyone is suffering. The Wuye community is being deprived of the economic activity and the shopping convenience the market would bring. The developer has built but is unable to operate and so losing money in the process. The investors who bought the shops when it was advertised for sale have their money tied down as they cannot take possession and begin business. The original allottees who believe they own the market are unable to also move into the market until the issues are resolved.
The questions uppermost in most people’s minds now is:
Why did the original allotees sue the developer rather than the government with whom they had a ‘contract?’
Why did the government, knowing it had made a promise to the traders, not make arrangement to pay the developer for the spaces it had given out ab initio?
Why has the developer, who has spent millions of naira on this project, suddenly been labelled the villain?
It was gathered that the original allottees paid sums ranging from five thousand to eleven thousand naira; if this is true then it is quite laughable in a place like Abuja where it is almost impossible to rent a shop for ten times that amount of money.
For now it seems like the matter is at a stand still but unquestionably, all parties involved must find a way to resolve the logjam and move ahead quickly. Wuye district awaits.