By Abdullahi Muhammad, Abuja
No fewer than 464 traders and shop owners inside Area 7 Shopping Complex, popularly known as Union Trading Company (UTC) market have been verified and ready to vacate the place and relocate to temporary place inside the proposed multi level car park site, opposite Arts and Culture Centre, within the area, in order to pave way for its proposed remodelling, two years after the agreement signed by Abuja Investment Company Limited on behalf of the Federal Capital Territory Administration with Urban Shelter Limited, in 2021.
It was gathered that despite amicable resolutions backing the seemingly delayed UTC market remodelling process, there have been long standing pockets of resistance from a section of the UTC Market stakeholders, but traders are now desperate to move out, due to palpable fear that bulldozers can visit anytime to pull down the structures in the place.
However, on a visit to the temporary site, at the weekend, it was observed doors, roofing and electrical components of the shops there were not in good condition, as a result of vandalization, attributed to persons purportedly resisting the remodelling process.
A former Chairman, Area 7 traders Association, Larry Ajayi, whi was seen at the temporary site, said after verification, they were allocated shops at a subsidised amount to enable them move out of the old site.
Ajayi, disclosed that about 464 traders have been verified, and given letters of allocation, which states that they are having the right of first refusal for the shops that are going to be built at the old site.
He noted that there are about 432 shops at the old site, but those trading inside are close to 700, as some are dividing shops to accommodate up to 2 to 3 traders in one shop, hence those that are not the owners of the shops, because of the remodelling that is coming up are now going to benefit, and will become shop owners.
According to him, the issues had been resolved amicably by stakeholders, following series of stakeholders’ meeting, where everybody – Urban Shelter, which is the developer, the Abuja Investment, Abuja Market Management Company, that is the market managers and traders Association, and other stakeholders, all had there representatives.
He disclosed that the traders paid certain amount for the shops at the temporay site, while the developer, did other things like the roofing, wiring, flooring and plastering for them.
” I have paid for my own shop at the new site, just like others have paid for theirs, so can you say that we don’t want to move out of the old site marked for remodelling.
“In fact, from this moment, SMS messages have been sent out to those people who have already paid, and those who have not completed payment to do so and to take up their spaces. People want to move out of the old site, because of the fear that bulldozers can cone anytime to pull down the structures in that place is already in their minds, so they want to move their things out of there. Some are even willing to move and do the repairs by themselves at the new site”, he stated.
He continued: “All of us agreed that there is need for remodelling as the place is dilapidated as it is finished already. If you enter the market, you will see many portions of the roof that have fallen off, leaving traders around there vulnerable to incurring loss whenever it rains. So what’s the essence of staying there again?
“So, everyone agreed that there should be remodelling, which is one of the resolutions. Secondly, there should be a temporary place to continue our business while the construct is going on. They suggested moving us to Kaura District Market but everybody insisted that they should give us this one( the site for the proposed multi level car park opposite Arts and Culture Centre) because we want to be around seeing the construction going on, so that they won’t take it away from them.
“And the third resolution is that a committee (with three sub committees) that has the representaives of all the stakeholders should be set up, and its inauguration took place at the Abuja Investment office”.
Similarly, another trader at the UTC, Mr. Uche Paul, who declared his and other traders willingness to vacate the place, said they have already paid money for allocation in the temporary site, said for months they had been waiting for relocation.
According to him: “We have been waiting for the relocation for months. They said that they were relocating us to the temporary site, and when they finish, we will go back to the remodelled complex.
“So, waiting for it all this while, and now the remodelling is about to come. This place is what we the traders are hoping that it is where we will be doing our business pending when they finish as agreed with our executives.
“They said when they rebuilding that place (old site), we are going back there as it is part of the agreement that has been reached, except the Urban Shelter will not obey such agreement, because that is where we are holding onto. There is an agreement that once they finished that place, we are going back there.
“We have paid money for allocation in the temporary site, and now they are even the ones delaying us, so if there is anything they would do to solve this issue of relocation and other sundry matters of importance to our business, let them go ahead to do such”.
On his part, the technical coordinator, Urban Shelter Limited, Engr Ayodele Kolawole, during the inspection of the temporary market site, said necessary measures have been put in place to ensure that no body is disrupted of his or her livelihood or be short changed.
According to him, the UTC market building was becoming a slum and threat to the lives of traders and customers, considering its years of existence.
Kolawole revealed that the remodeling, which will last for the period of two years would be done in phases, as part of the resolutions reached with the traders, shop owners, Abuja market management, Urban Shelter Limited and Abuja Investment Company.
He said prior to the commencement of the remodeling plan, all parties involved had agreed with Minister of FCT endorsement.