State government officials make quick money off poor traders in stalls allocation at the Kaduna Central Market.
By Ahmed Musa
Greedy officials of the Kaduna State Market Development and Management Company, MDMC, have turned the allocation of stalls at the Abubakar Gumi Market, otherwise known as Kaduna Central Market, into a goldmine, charging poor traders as much as N800,000 instead of the official N80,000.
The Kaduna state government mandated the company to rebuild a part of the popular market which was destroyed by a fire outbreak in 2011.
But indications that the traders who lost goods worth millions of naira to the fire incident would be given a rough deal emerged even before work started on the reconstruction of the market as the company gave hints that it would give the new stalls to anybody who could buy them.
But that is contrary to the original noble intention of the government which was to rebuild the affected side of the market along Broadcasting Road and allocate them to the displaced traders who were making do with makeshift stalls outside the market.
The government had given the affected traders in the makeshift stalls at the subsidized rent of between N15,000 to N30,000, depending on the size and location of the stall.
Although the situation was not perfect, the traders were still happy because the arrangement accorded them some advantages, including provision clean and serene market environment, security as well as lower prices of goods.
But, hardly had the reconstruction work been completed than greedy officials at the helm of affairs at the Kaduna Market Development and Management Company hijacked the process of allocation for personal gain.
Investigations by our correspondent in Kaduna revealed that the displaced petty traders for whom the stalls were built have been denied allocation as the N800,000 being demanded by officials is way beyond them.
Our investigation shows that senior officials of the MDMC use a middleman, the secretary to chairman of the market traders’ association, who is popularly called Dangote, to make the illegal sale of allocation papers.
It is Dangote who scouts for buyers, concludes negotiation, issues allocation papers and collects money which he gives to officials of the company.
On most working days, Dangote can be seen clutching allocation papers and holding negotiations with buyers before retiring to the offices of the general manager of the MDMC.
A petty trader from the South western part of the country, who refuses to be named, said that she begged the company’s officials to collect N500,000 from her but “ they refused insisting on collecting N800,000 because there are many others willing to pay the amount.”
Another trader told our correspondent that she paid N800,000 to a senior official of the company and that she was given an allocation paper but got no receipt.
Our investigation showed that the stalls are meant to cost only N160,000 only as this is the amount written on the allocation paper.
It was gathered that some of the affected petty traders who have rejected the sale of the stalls to other persons and at exorbitant costs have already written a petition on the matter to the Kaduna State House of Assembly which they copied the commissioner of Commerce and Industries as well as the secretary to the state government. So far, the petition has not yielded any results.
One of the aggrieved traders who spoke to our correspondent on the condition of anonymity for fear of being ejected from the market said that their leader, Auwal Garba, had appealed to the management of the company to collect N80,000 from the traders to no avail.
According to the source, instead of agreeing to their plea, the management allegedly asked the traders to withdraw their petition before the state Assembly first. If they agreed, the source said the company’s officials offered to give 7 stalls at the official price to the estimated 50 affected petty traders.
The 50 traders, the source said, are expected to resell the stalls at up to N800,000 and share the money.
Besides, he also alleged that the management also offered to give two stalls to Garba and his deputy, who were both appointed to represent the affected displaced traders. Garba, it was gathered, has collected his own stall, a situation which his colleagues see as a betrayal.
When confronted, Garba bluntly refused to answer questions on the allocation of stalls in the market.
The general manager of the MDMC, Yusuf Maikwari, also declined commenting on the allegations, insisting that our correspondent speak with the chairman of the company’s management board, Yahaya Tanko.
“I am just a mere general manager, I cannot speak to you. So you have to speak to the chairman or write a letter to the management,” said Maikwari in a phone conversation.
Prodded further to defend himself and the company, the general manager said that he could not address the issues raised on the phone.
When asked if he could respond to them by email, Maikwari said simply that he would not be available as he was travelling abroad.
When contacted by phone, Tanko also declined speaking on the matter on the phone, insisting on seeing our correspondent in person.
Tanko also declined responding to our queries by email or other electronic means, suggesting that we use the chairman of the Nigerian Union of Journalist in the state to interview him and get relevant documents, an offer that was rejected.
It would be recall that the same trend led to the near dormant state of the Kaduna Central Market which was rebuilt by government after it was destroyed by fire in 2000.
The reconstructed market was hijacked by a group of racketeers who devised more profitable ventures for the stalls and sold them at exorbitant rates or charged outrageous rent for them.
Today, most stalls in the Kaduna Central Market remain closed since 2002, while traders who are supposed to be using them are scattered in the surrounding streets.