OPINION: Why The Police Must Prosecute Wuye Market Protesters

By Abiodun Oluwarotimi

It is no longer a news that Wuye Market in Abuja was recently invaded by members of the Association of Wuye Ultra Modern Market Allottees (AWUMMA) under the pretense that they were fighting for their shops in the market.

During the illegal protests, the protesters who were believed to have been hired with 3,000 Naira each to prevent real shop owners from gaining access into the market used that opportunity to loot peoples’ shops and their goods.

During a visit of Nigerian Concord to the market, many of the shop owners still complained that they have not been able to recover from the loss they were made to face by the looters who invaded the marker under the guise of protesting.

This newspaper gathered that the developer, the All Purpose Shelters Limited, is simply asking the plaintiffs to follow the due process as contained in an April, 2015 court’s ruling.

The developer wants the plaintiffs to pay all the required statutory charges and ground rent before they could be allotted shops in the market.

During the ruling, the court was silent on the cost and payments to be made by the allottees, but it is a known fact that shops in the market are sold for N4.4million while open space and stalls are rented at between N35,000 and N50,000 annually. The lock-up shops on the other hand go for between N180,000 and N250,000 as rent annually.

It would be recalled that the crisis dates back to 2000 when the traders were relocated from the Old Bakassi Market in the now Central Area due to the series of fire outbreaks there.

The then FCT minister, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, gave the traders the option of choosing between Wuye, Mabushi, Garki and Kaura for the market to be relocated to.

During the construction of the market, the mortgage bank to finance the project opted out paving way for the All Purpose Shelters that won the bid for the project.

The private developer, having executed the project out of its own resources decided to allocate shops to interested traders at the point of which the crisis ensued.

The issue of the April, 2015 judgment of the High Court bothers on the fact that the plaintiffs have to pay the ground rent and other statutory charges, and having read through the judgment, the plaintiffs, it was gathered, went to the FCDA and from there, they were directed to the investment arms of FCDA to know what they need to do.

This newspaper gathered that the Abuja Investment which is an investment arm of the FCDA called for a stake holders meeting between the plaintiffs and the Developer.

According to findings, the meeting was held and during the meeting, Abuja Investment made the plaintiffs to realize that statutory charges and ground rents would be determined based on the structures on ground and their values.

The plaintiffs were asked by Abuja Investment to go and see the developer for the bills but Nigerian Concord learnt that they (Plaintiffs) said they don’t have any business with the developer.

It was gathered that they refused to recognize the developer because of a paper that they carry. They claimed it was FCDA that gave them the paper and as a result of this, they would have no relationship with the developer.

We gathered that the plaintiffs walked away from the meeting and started causing one trouble or the other on daily basis.

Shortly after that, the plaintiffs, according to findings, wrote the developer’s office that they were going to pay 2 Million Naira and also that they were ready to pay for the period of five years. That means they would be paying 400,000 naira yearly.

It was gathered that they determined the 2 million Naira on their own and they gave the developer a letter to that effect but the developer, in its response, told them that it wouldn’t work that way.

Also, this newspaper gathered that after some time, the plaintiffs said verbally that they were ready to pay 3 million Naira and they were asked by the developer to put it in writing but up till now, they haven’t done that, this newspaper gathered.

It was gathered that the logjam was caused by the refusal of the aggrieved traders to pay the required money valued for the shops that have been developed.

The traders according to findings claimed that they would not pay for the shops since they had paid N2,000, N5,000 and N8,000 separately to the government.

Reports have it that the monies were paid as administrative fees to the FCT Administration with which letters of provisional offer of allocation of shop/open space were issued to them.

Meanwhile, it had been determined in a law court that the FCDA ought to have revoked that provisional, but since it did not, people should be allowed into the market as long as they are ready to pay the ground rent and other statutory charges to the developer.

According to the court’s determination, they have right to be in the market but they must also pay the statutory fees and taxes, ground rent but they have refused, saying they cannot make any further payment since they had paid N2,000, N5,000, and N8,000.

In an exclusive interview with Nigerian Concord, the Executive Director of the All Purpose Shelters Limited, Mr Segun Balogun, said that: “There was even no way we would have agreed with the 2 or 3 million Naira offer from the plaintiffs because the price of a shop as at then was 4.4 million Naira.

“In 2006, we were selling some shops at 3.250 million Naira and a lot of people keyed into it. Those that were able to pay 100 Per cent got a discount of 5 per cent. Some paid in three installments and they started with 50 per cent payment.

“Some paid up till 75 per cent while some are yet to pay their balance up till now. Meanwhile, the unfortunate thing is that the whole thing has to do with the numbers of shops that are available for sale. Those that claimed to have the provisional allocation paper from the FCDA are about 5,605 people and the market capacity is just 1,600 shops.

“So it is quite unfortunate and the truth is that it has to be based on first come first serve. Some started paying as far back as 2007, some had finished payment and some haven’t. And as at today, we have sold 1,250 shops. We only have 350 shops left in the market and they are meant for rent because some of them complained that they cannot afford to buy the shops, and we said to them that it is not compulsory for them to own the shops.

“If you are a genuine trader, you can rent and when your business has given you enough profits, you can decide to buy a shop of your own. That is the situation for now”.

Mr. Balogun who said he was surprised by some of the allegations made by AWUMMA, said that various measures were taken to end the matter but they failed to comply with them.

He accused AWUMMA of feeding the public with wrong information about the court’s judgment to get their support.

He pressed further that the developer had reported the case of invasion by the protesters to the police but they refused to attend a peace-making meeting that the Commissioner of Police invited all the parties to.

He said: “We reported to the police on how they invaded the markets, looted shops and prevented original shop owners from gaining entrance into their shops. The commissioner of police then called a meeting which we all attended except for the plaintiffs who refused to attend.

“We understood that they were having a parallel meeting somewhere at that time they were supposed to be in the meeting with us. Abuja Investment was at the meeting that the police called for, representatives from the FCDA were there, Abuja Market Management Authority was there, the developer was there as well as those who had paid and got keys to their shops.

“After the Commissioner of Police had viewed all the documents on ground and listened to all the parties that were present at the meeting, he then ordered that security operatives should be at the market to secure the original shop owners so that they can have a quiet possession of their shops.

Interviews With Some Shop Owners To Be Published Shortly!!!