Some traders in the popular UTC market at Area 10 Garki Abuja, on Tuesday staged a protest over the planned demolition of the market complex by the FCT authority.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the traders in their hundreds barricaded the main entrance gates to the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) and the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) Secretariats.
The protesters were also carrying placards with various inscriptions such as, ‘Leave UTC market alone,’ ‘Stay away from UTC market, we do not want to remodel’ ‘UTC is the best market in FCT’, ‘Minister come to our rescue’ ‘People depend on us to survive,’ among others.
Briefing newsmen on the protest, Mr Godfrey Ojarikre, the Chairman of the Association of UTC Shop Owners, appealed to AMAC and FCT administrations to shelve the planned demolition of market complex.
Ojarikre noted that some officials of the FCTA had in the early hours of Tuesday stormed the market and demolished its perimeter fencing without prior notice and knowledge of the traders.
“We woke up on Tuesday morning to discover that the fence of the complex had been demolished.
“Such action is in contrary to the subsisting court order that all parties to the court case should maintain status quo.
“In 2021, we had the course to go to court to douse the tension that was brewing between us and the market management.
“It took us by surprise that on Dec. 25, 2020, we came to the complex only to discover three billboards erected by Urban Shelter that they want to remodel the market.
“And from that 2020, they have not been relating with us, but rather they have been fraudulently relating with our tenants who are traders in the market.
“They even gave the FCT Minister the wrong impression that they have been discussing with us. The most culprit is urban shelters.
“Then the Department of Development Control came and wrote quit notice on March 30, and our lawyer wrote to them to remind them that the case is in court.
“We thought the matter has ended, only for us to come this morning and noticed that the fence to the complex has been removed,” he said.
Ojarikre accused the FCTA of using security operatives to harass his members, saying that they were bonafide owners of the shops.
“What they gave us was shop space in 1997 and they gave us an initial letter. Then seven years later they gave us a reconfirmation letter, with the instruction to erect permanent structures in 1997.
“Majority of us that are retired civil servants used our pensions and gratuities to erect the permanent structures.
“Even if they are remodeling, at least they needed to meet and discuss with the real owners of the shop in the complex.
“We caught one of the metal boys in a police uniform that was trying to remove the fence and he confessed that they were hired to come and buy metal at the complex. That there are iron rods in the complex.
“That is to tell you the extent to which the building engineer with Urban Shelter is willing to cause division among us, by going through our ranks to see those who will collect bribes and support their desire,” he said.