Jos market demolition: To be or not to be?

Fifteen years after it was razed down by fire, the popular Jos main market is yet to be reconstructed. In this piece ISAAC SHOBAYO’s investigation reveals that opinion is divided over whether it should be reconstructed or not following the allegation of N1.18 billion for its demolition alone.

PLATEAU State’s main market, the Jos Terminus market, razed by inferno in 2002, has been lying in waste for almost two decades without committed efforts to rebuild it. The edifice that was once the cynosure of all eyes, a tourist delight and a trading centre that attracted many, has remained in a state of ruins.

Since it was razed by fire, both Senator Joshua Dariye and his successor, Senator Jonah Jang, attempted to rebuild the market, but they couldn’t make any headway until the present administration, led by Governor Simon Bako Lalong, decided to fix a market that had long defied solution.

Based on its economical potential, expectations were that succeeding state administrations would reconstruct the market, but 15 years after, nothing has been done. Former Governor Jang attempted to relocate the traders to satellite markets like Rukuba, Bukuru, and Faringada, all on the outskirts of the city, but the traders refused to relocate there, preferring instead to build makeshift shops around the burnt market. Jang even made a proposal to demolish the remnant of the market, evacuate it and replace it with a shopping mall, but his proposal never flew with the people.

But Simon Lalong has not rested I efforts at rebuilding the market. He recently unveiled his commitment to the reconstruction of the main market in partnership with private organisations. His move has started to generate excitement among residents of Jos and businessmen and women in the state generally.

Alhaji Abdulrahman  Miakudi, who trades in fabric and other materials within the vicinity of the burnt market, claimed that no fewer than 270 shops were destroyed by the inferno, “so, the step taken is a welcome development that will boost revenue for the state and as well ease the suffering of traders,” he said.

Since the unfortunate incident, traders had been operating in makeshift shops close to the burnt market, flagrantly displaying their wares along the roads under the guise of having no place to sell their goods. Recent pronouncement by the government that traders within the vicinity of the market should vacate the area to pave the way for the pulling down of the remains of the burnt market did not work as this only ignited fury among others.

While presenting the 2019 budget breakdown, the State Commissioner of for Budget and Economic Planning, Mr. Sylvester Wallangko, pointed out that state government had earmarked the sum of N1.8 billion for the demolition of the burnt Jos Main Market. Though the move to commence the process of the reconstruction was commended by the people, they couldn’t but query why such a huge amount of money would be used for mere demolition.

A human rights activist, Danjuma Malori, who questioned the rationale behind such amount, declared thus: “If N1.8 billion is going to be used for just demolition, how much is expected to be expended on the main construction? There is need for explanation, instead keeping people in the dark. It is easy for many to see it as another ploy to siphon tax payers’ money. The government needs to go beyond mere mention of the amount for demolition,” he said.

However, many are of divergent of view over the planned demolition. There are professionals who questioned the rationale behind the huge amount set aside for the demolition. Ibrahim Gokyo, an architect, wants the government to give a breakdown of how the money would be spent, considering the size of the market.

According to him, N1.8 billion is a huge amount to the poor who struggle to get by on a daily basis. They need to be convinced, he said. He added further that the government must clear the gray areas for the sake of accountability and probity.

Worried by the controversies that the amount is generating, Plateau State Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, Mr. Yakubu Usman Idi, clarified how the amount earmarked for the demolition of the burnt down Jos Terminus market in the 2019 budget, would be expended.

Explaining reason for the high cost to newsmen in Jos, he said people think the amount was too much because they did not know that the demolition exercise would be carried out in four different components  on the site.

“The components are; the sanitation aspect. There are large tons of human wastes which has to be evacuated. Secondly, the reinforcement, that will ensure that 30 per cent of the building will pass integrity test, must be adhered to. Thirdly, the demolition  itself, which includes the bringing down of the structures, comes with a cost, and lastly, the clearing of the debris at the end of the exercise.”

The commissioner pointed out that the demolition exercise is not ordinary kind as is a specialised type of demolition. “This means  that there  is going to be highly technical activities involved. The structure  is located at the centre of the town with residential and offices apartments surrounding the structure

“People are looking at the cost of the demolition only. They don’t  it is an expensive exercise  because it is a specialized kind of demolition which Nigeria can not afford the technical know how. Experts have to be contracted from outside. The explosives to be used have to be brought from outside the country, apart from so many other items. We should not forget about the current exchange rate.”

However, in an interaction with some selected media houses in Jos, the management team of the company led by Messrs Chris Roggers, Imam Mabudi and others expected to handle the   demolition, highlighted  that the task would involve the use of implosion demolition technology to bring down the building, evacuate 43,000 metric tons of debris, 4,000 drilled holes, evacuation of 30 tons of faeces accumulated over 15 years, with 50 security personnel always on ground to provide security.

They equally shed more light on why the pace of work, which started in January 2019, is slow. They hinted that most of the materials imported went through security checks, coupled with the challenges of transporting the implosive materials.

The Plateau State market demolition is the third to be carried out by the South African expatriates in Nigeria after the NITEL building in Lagos and the Bank of Industry in Abuja.

The team further stated that because of the human activities around the market, a lot of restraints were used to prevent loss of lives. Similarly, the company feels that human lives are very important, hence the believe that the N1.18bn for a modern technological implosion demolition, as against the orthodox method that may claim many lives and properties, has been done away with.

Amidst these controversies, the state government has set the ball rolling for the demolition to pave the way for the reconstruction of the market.

A  section of traders who were displaced around the market appealed to the government to expedite action on the construction to alleviate  their  suffering.

The opinion among residents is that if the government could break the jinx and reconstruct the market, it would be a landmark achievement after many years of neglect.


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