The planned demolition of some sections of the informal sector at the Apo mechanic village in Abuja has generated concern among traders in the popular motor spare parts market.
More than 1,000 traders are to be affected by the demolition which the government said was to allow for a road project. While the project is inevitable, traders said they do not have a clear-cut relocation plan. They feared the road project could render some traders jobless.
Apo is a one-stop automobile mechanic and spare parts workshop in Abuja. The traders are spread on a stretch of over three kilometres road from Kabusa Junction to the Deeper Christian Life Ministry Church in Apo. There are hundreds of containers heaped on one another, in some cases, in the informal sector of the Apo mechanic village. The formal sector of the market is quite far from the road so it is not affected by the demolition exercise.
The FCT Minister, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello, flagged off the construction of the 20 kilometre dual carriage Apo-Wasa road in 2017. The road, which is part of the Outer Southern Expressway (OSEX) would pull up at the Apo-Karshi road, also under construction. The two carriageways were awarded to different construction companies namely M/S CGC, (Nigeria) Ltd – for left-hand-side carriageway of 15km and Gilmor (Nigeria) Ltd – for right-hand-side carriageway measuring 5km. The contract sums for both roads are N6.17bn and N2.45bn respectively.
There were several attempts in the past to relocate the traders. The attempts were unsuccessful due to the inability of the government to get a suitable place for the traders. Though the traders commended the government for the construction of the road project, they feared that for the construction to be successful, the traders had to be relocated to an ‘ideal location’ suitable for their businesses.
Officials of the FCTA Development Control Authority had in November marked the locations to be affected by the road construction. Some structures by the roadside have already been pulled down. Government officials said it would decentralize the spare part markets to allow for the free flow of traffic.
The demolition of the structures, according to some traders, showed that the government, unlike previous unsuccessful demolition plans, ‘meant business.’
The task force chairman of the New Parts Section of the market, Goodluck Obum, said there are more than 25 sections in the market. The sections, he said, are controlled by different associations. Among the sections are New Parts, which he said belongs to Belgium Parts, Peugeot Parts, Tyre Plaza, Honda 1,2,3,4, and Independent Honda. He said over 200 of his members were affected by the planned demolition.
“The people that are affected among my members are up to 200 but in all, we are talking about thousands of people because we have up to 25 sections,” he said.
He said the members of the association planned to move to Dubai Market in Gudu District.
Members of the Independent Honda Section said they do not have a relocation plan yet. The chairman of the union, Chris Collins Onyenacho said the project has been a ‘serious concern to them.’
He said the traders knew that the place was temporary. “They call it buffer zone but all I know is that when I came to Abuja, I met people here and I joined them and from then till now, I have been doing my business in this place.”
He said the traders are cooperating with the government to ensure that the project succeeds.
“We were notified on the dualisation of the roads though we have been working with FCDA to ensure that they give us a permanent site. Former ministers like Bala Mohammed gave us hope that they will relocate us to Wasa, where an intent letter was shown to us but it became a political promise because it was not fulfilled,” he said.
He said the members of the association had concluded plans of relocating to Gude, a community before Wasa, noting that the land, though not allocated to the traders by the government, would serve the traders better than Dubai Market.
He said associations in the mechanic village were not united.
“Some groups of persons went to development control for the traders to shift back while some want to relocate to Dubai market or Gude,” he said, adding that all the proposed relocation places had peculiar challenges.
“Dubai Market may not contain all the traders at Apo. It can never contain us though the place is big. We need the government to come to our aid; let them work with us and fulfill their promises,” he said.
“When Bello was here, he promised to work with the association. He said we will be taken to a proposed government site,” he said.
He said the traders will cooperate with the government.
“We are law-abiding citizens and as the chairman, I must ensure that we cooperate with what the government is bringing. We are ready for any peace agreement with them. We will not welcome the forceful agreement.
“They cannot force us to agree on what will not augur well with my members. You cannot come here tomorrow that you want to put pall loader and start pushing peoples’ property. If they do that without reaching an agreement with us, it will not work.
“It is not easy to reposition, relocate or readjust. And you know these things coincide with the festive period. It is our utmost interest that this road is dualised but let all demands be met. Our proposed site should be given to us. We are tired of developing a place and then the government will come to demolish it. The government is just using us to develop the districts. We were somewhere before Apo,” he said, adding that should any of Wasa or Gude community be approved for the relocation, it would be developed in no time by the traders.
He said until the government allocates a permanent place for the mechanic village, the problem will persist as they would still be moved from one place to another, “and it is bad for our business,” he said.
Another trader, Hyicancth Ojjes, urged the government to consider the plight of traders that cannot afford spaces in the formal sector by making affordable relocation plans. He said a shop at the formal sector costs about N350, 000, “the goods I have in my containers are not up to N200, 000. Where will I go from here?” he asked.
Ojjes said the government had been discussing the Wasa relocation since 2014. “They don’t have us at heart and now we have no place to go,” he said, adding that division among the traders also contributed to their plights.
The sexagenarian said the inability of the traders to speak from a united front, would put the government at an advantaged position, “several groups meet differently with government officials so there are several things you will hear about the relocation plans,” he said.
The Director, Development Control Authority of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), Muktar Galadima, said no date had been fixed for the demotion.
He said the traders would be compensated before the road construction commences in the area. “We have already evacuated some containers,” he said.
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