The market is a sprawling community of traders who deal on virtually every commodity ranging from staple food, vegetables, fruits to clothes and shoes on wholesale and retails. Nearly every line of commerce thrives here and traders make brisk businesses on daily basis. It was built with the aim of ensuring that each trader has a reason- able space within the lock up stalls. Unfortunately, while traders were busy with their buying and selling activities, they paid very little attention to their environment. The refuse dumps were growing at an alarming pro- portion and posing health risks to the people. Sealing off the market Inside Abuja learnt that as customers and other visitors to the market started raising se- rious concerns over the sanitary condition of the market and the possibility of an impending epidemic, the Abuja Environmental Protection Board ( AEPB) quickly moved in and sealed off the market. While traders and customers said the AEPB’s action was an after thought, officials from the Board, argued that the right steps had been taken. Director of AEPB, Osilamah Braimah, said that sealing off the market was the last option as the traders had consistently failed to do the right thing.
Braimah noted that the market management had put in place mechanisms that will constantly protect the environment, but traders and shop owners failed to appreciate such efforts. Inside Abuja’s findings showed that there had been several meetings and agreement be- tween the occupants and market management, on how to promote sanitation there, but there was no implementation. It was further gathered that AEPB waded in, as a government agency that has the statutory rights of oversight functions on such environmental issues, after a long period of non compli- ance with the rules and regulations. Unhealthy situations Braimah explained that while the board was not happy shutting down the market, it will be failing in its responsibility, if the market is al- lowed to operate under sich a deplorable con- dition. “Environmental Health Officers of the Board carrying out routine monitoring activi- ties in the market, a week ago, noticed the filthy market environment, garbage littered all over the place and bleeding sewer lines. “Following our standard protocol, we served them an abatement notice, giving them the required time allowable under law, to clean up.
They ignored the notice and refused to clean up, rather the pile of garbage in the market prem- ises grew worse,” Braimah said. According to him, AEPB simply went to court to obtain the court order to seal the market for their non-compliant attitude. He said that the closure was followed by the court order issued to that effect. “It is indeed a sad spectacle to behold fruits and vegetables being sold in close proximity to damaged sewer lines and heaps of garbage. “Subsequently on Friday, over 5,000 traders who thronged the modern market in order to trade, couldn’t gain access into their shops as the market was sealed up.
About a week ago the Garki International Market, one of the major centres of commerce in the Federal Capital Territory, was shut down by the authorities following non- compliance with sanitary and environmental regulations, CALEB ONWE reports “This means that every commercial activity grinds to a halt, because the situation as it is, is a recipe for an epidemic,” he noted. Braimah revealed that it was an epidemic waiting to happen and that the AEPB promptly and decisively took the decision to shut down the market rather than allowing trading to go on as usual in a filthy environment. “Placing financial interests of traders above the greater public health of the general populace is indeed an expensive mistake that we cannot afford to make. “As soon as they do the needful, we will go back to the court to obtain a court order to un- seal the market for operations,” he said.. Attitude of traders It was learnt that even the Abuja Market Management Limited ( AMML) had on several occasions engaged the occupants of the market on the need to clean up the environment, but to no avail. It was further gathered that many of the shop owners and traders have always resisted appeals to pay sanitation fees, the reason why the waste collection agency had stayed away from the market.
Apparently, to further punish the traders for not doing the needful, the FCT Administration said the market will remain shut for as long as the environment remains in a sorry state. Special Assistant to FCT Minister on Moni- toring, Inspection and Enforcement, Ikharo At- tah said the sanitary condition of the market was a disaster in waiting. According to him, the minister of FCT Mal- lam Muhammad Bello wants a clean and safe Abuja, therefore necessary steps must be put in place to uphold the standard. Rot of facilities “The present state of Garki Market is a di- saster waiting to happen. We have gone round the market to check the level of sanitation but is still bad. We sealed it since last Friday, so by now there is supposed to be some signs of seriousness on the part of traders.
“The Abuja Environmental Protection Board AEPB has acted in line with the Ministe- rial directives, any part of Abuja either market, school or office must be kept clean. “When we came in here yesterday we dis- covered that the work done was not very im- pressive and the director of AEPB went back with his team, held a high powered meeting with Market Management Limited (MML), and the team of the market association, they yesterday and this morning, work resumed at optimal capacity, what we are seeing now is very encouraging, and that is the reason why the Minister of FCT, Malami Muham- mad Musa Bello, has given his approval and directed that the Garki international market be reopened immediately for commencement of trading actives. “The Minister however, issued his warning and I have told the director, should the market degenerate again, we will have to lock this time and get a longer period because the Minister’s intention is to get the market safe, for both trad- ers and safe as well for all users of the market, and we imploy MML, traders association and the traders, to please keep the market clean and make profit and enrich the Nigerian economy.” Garki Market: Trading amid filth, epidemic scare he said. Voice of traders A tailor in the market, Umar Hamza was not worried over the poor sanitary conditions of the market, but about his business that has suffered a setback.
He complained that his tailoring works have been suspended for five days that the market was shut. To get him and other occupants back on their feet, the tailor pleaded for clemency from the administration, just for their suffocating entre- preneurial activities to come back to life. “AEPB shut the market about 5 days ago, we pleaded for more time in order to clean and evacuate the wastes. The wastes have accumu- lated due to the traders refusal to pay the cur- rent service charge impose by Abuja Market Management Limited, we are appealing to FCT Administration to feel our pains, We have lost billions in the last few days over the closure,” Hamza said. Daniel Kalu, a trader said that he and his col- leagues were now prepared to keep the market tidy at all times. “We have even started the clean up of the market, all the refuse dumps have been reduced to a little as a result of our clean up exercise. Court order “Why we stopped was because of Court issue. You know some of our people went to Court be- cause they considered the service charge placed on us to be too much, so they wanted Abuja Mar- ket Management Limited to reduce charges, but I can confirm to you that they have gone to the Court to withdraw the case. “We are pleading with the AMML to come to our aid by reopen the market for us, on our part we are ready to ensure that the clean up of the market is completed” he said. Chairman, Traders taskforce Osinachi Chris said there is hope for the traders in the market. “As you can see, before now I was jubilating because it is a very big challenge that came up on us and I want to say a very big thank you to AEPB, the honourable Minister himself that made all this possible. “Yesterday, after supervision and we get the recommendation on what we were going to do for the market to be reopened, we joined hands with the management and began work from 6am, and thank God AEPB and Minister’s team is here and they appreciate our efforts. We send our greetings to the Minister,” he said. Inside Abuja observed that the movement of waste disposal trucks had increased in the market, taking solid waste away from the mar- ket, but some sewer lines were still bleeding profusely. It was gathered that the FCTA was moved by the pleas of the traders who had seemingly lost great revenues from the shutdown.