Traders in Minna lament, as Niger govt demolishes shops

IT was wailing in Minna on Monday, as over 2,900 traders in Tunga market in Minna, the Niger State capital had their shops reduced to rubbles by the state government.

The midnight operations carried out by men of the Niger State Environmental Protection Agency (NSEPA) also led to the destruction of goods estimated at several millions of  Naira.

During the midnight operation,  heavily armed security operatives said to be about 300, gave cover to the government officials as their heavy duty machines (bulldozers) pulled down what the government described as  illegal structures.

An eyewitness told Metro  that government’s trucks were allegedly loaded with goods from some of the shops to unknown destination.

One of the victims, a mother of seven,  who sells foodstuffs  in the market, Mrs Ngozi Chukwu, who claimed to have lost over N300, 000 worth of goods and cash, said they got to the market this morning (Monday) only to discover that the entire market had been reduced to rubbles.

According to her, “this is the end of the road for me. This is what the entire family depends on for survival because my husband does not do any work.”

Also expressing her frustration, another trader, Gloria Ezeh, admitted that the government actually gave them quit  notice to move out of the market which expires today (Monday). They should have  allowed us  to remove our  wares.

“We came to the market this morning only to meet our shops  demolished and our goods destroyed while some were taken away to unknown destinations. In this present economic hardship where do they (government) want us to start from now that we have lost everything,” said the victim.

Attempts to reach the chairman of  Chanchaga Local Government Area to get his reaction was not successful as Metro did not meet him in the office and his phone lines were also switched off.

But an official of the revenue department in the council, who spoke with Metro on the condition of anonymity, said the local government’s management was not aware of the exercise.

When contacted, the General Manager of NSEPA, Mr Lucky S. Barau, said his men decided to embark on the operation of evacuating the traders from the roadside market after repeated warning to the traders to relocate failed, hence his men decided to move in.

He said their continued occupation of the market had constituted nuisance to free flow of traffic in the area, as they have completely blocked access road passing through the market, adding that the clustering of the traders had also denied the government the necessary revenue.

He claimed that eight months notice was given to the traders to relocate from the roadside and move into the main market where over 100 shops were left unoccupied, stressing that the last notice which had since expired, was given to the traders last month.