Victims of Area 1 Market demolition ‘now sleep in Abuja streets’

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BY ABUBAKAR H. MUHAMMAD, FEBRUARY 08, 2024 | 01:59 PM


About two weeks after the demolition of Area One Mini Market in Abuja, Nigeria's capital, marketers have resumed their regular business around the market.

Sources indicate that over 300 shops and stalls were destroyed, affecting more than 10,000 marketers.

Despite regular police visits to disperse resistance, some marketers said they will continue squatting in the area due to the lack of alternatives. They are demanding compensation from the government or an alternative space for their businesses.

'We are still squatting, but we run away whenever we spot security approaching,' says Ali Ibrahim, a father of six and a food vendor who is also an internally displaced person (IDP) all the way from Borno.

Another victim, a POS operator added: 'you cannot snatch away people’s jobs without providing an alternative or compensation and expect them to go home and stay idle.'

Marketers express hope to redevelop their business spaces

The market, an extension of Kwakwalada Motor Park, was over 30 years old. Security agencies view it not only as a market but as a black spot for drug dealing and criminal activities. Despite past demolitions, users have revived the market.

Some victims, including IDPs from the Boko Haram crisis and other insurgency, believe they can still revive the market.

Garuba Lawan, who set up a mechanic workshop around 1992, narrated his over three-decade story in the market.

‘I came to this place and set up my mechanic workshop around 1992. It was all bushes at that time. I just cleared some space and started hosting customers.

‘Except for few houses, I was the only business person here at that time,’ Mr. Lawan, a father of nine, narrated, stressing that everything was free at that time.

‘I came to this place 22 years ago and I didn’t pay any money for allocation but when the market became formal about ten years ago, I paid N600,000 for registration and N5,000 monthly charges,’ another victim, a car wash owner who wants to be recognized as AY, added.

Others who equally shared their experiences of establishing businesses in the market over the years, emphasized on the challenges they faced after the recent demolition.

Some used their shops as shelter, adding that they are left to pass the night on the street.

‘It is not a large market but it will be hard to capture the accurate number of business people in it because many come every day to do their businesses and go without having any physical structure like a shop, stall or shade and hundreds of people also spend their nights in their shops,’ a barber, Wakil Babagana, who is also an IDP from Borno, said.

‘My ambition was to join the armed forces after graduation (with HND) but I have tried several times, including enrolling in training and screening but all in vein, and at some points, bribes were demanded from us to be enlisted,’ Wakil added, noting that what he had as an alternative is now taken away from him.

Blessing John, another victim, contemplates returning to her town in Niger State after losing her shop and shelter in the city.

A mother of two, who was running a local restaurant in the market with six other workers, however, complained that the demolition did not only go away with her shop but also her shelter.

‘Now that it has been demolished, we have not only lost our source of income but the roof over our heads,' Blessing said said, stressing that for some days now they have been spending their nights on the streets and with her shop attendants.

Marketers unaware of reasons for demolition

Our reporter at the scene tried to speak to an officer who is said to be an in-charge of the exercise but he declined to comment.

However, the market people said that the government is planning on relocating Jabi Motor Park to the Gwagwalada Motor Park, and their market was destroyed because an adequate space is needed for the expansion.

Yet, others believes the demolition is not unconnected with the alleged criminal activities in the market.


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