Abuja – The Permanent Secretary, Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) Mr. Christian Ohaa, has urged protesting Utako Market traders and shop owners to return to the negotiating table to make room for amicable resolution of issues generated by recent plans by the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) authorities, to upgrade the market.
The Permanent Secretary made this appeal in a meeting with the leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Traders, as well as Utako Market Traders Association, in his office in Abuja.
Mr. Ohaa assured the traders that no one would short-change them or take away their shops unduly in the course of the remodeling exercise estimated at N67bn.
The meeting, according to a press statement made available by Chief Press Secretary to the FCT Minister, Mr. Cosmas Uzodinma, stated that the meeting was convened in reaction to the protest staged by the concerned traders at the FCTA Secretariat, to protest planned upgrading of the market by AMAC, alleging the exercise was a ploy to take their shops away from them.
Ohaa expressed concern over the way and manner the traders pulled out from earlier negotiations and urged them to return to the negotiating table and to express their grievances with an open mind as stakeholders in the Abuja project.
“We are committed to ensuring justice and due process. The developers have assured us that no one will lose his shop and we hold him to their words and will not superintend over injustice”, he stated.
He however added that, “This is government of change, committed to moving Nigeria forward. Abuja is the city of unity, as envisioned by our founding fathers, and a home for every Nigerian.”
Mr. Ohaa urged the traders to consider the interest of all parties in the project by allowing work to go on, explaining that he had visited the market and observed that business activities and construction work could go on simultaneously. The FCTA, he stated, would ensure security of lives in all places, including the markets, churches and mosques at all times, especially during festive season.
He therefore requested that the whole team, comprising the FCT and National Leaders of the Association as well as Ohanaeze and others to visit the market for a first-hand information on the state of affairs and to report back to him.
The representative of the developer, Engineer Rabiu Sa’id, at the occasion gave assurances to the shop owners that they would all get their shops even before commencement of sale of the new shops to the public.
According to him, the remodelling would provide 2,100 shops, three times more than the existing shops, in addition to a 1500-space multi-level car park.
He added: “No traders will lose his shop. We will spend N67bn to develop the market, and we have not sold any shop. We will not sell any shop until everybody that has a shop there gets his shop. The issue of short-changing anyone does not arise, at all.”
The Chairman, Utako Market Traders Association, Austin Onwuamado, expressed happiness over the outcome of the meeting while appealing that the traders interest be protected by the government during and after the construction exercise.
He pleaded that most of the traders obtained loans to acquire the shops and the goods in them.
He also appealed to the developers to temporary halt further development activities on the site to allow them sell during the yuletide season, an appeal, which did not meet the acceptance of other stakeholders.
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