By Suleiman Anyalewechi, Aba
The Interim Management Committee of Ariaria International Market, Aba, has warned that it will not be distracted from the task of repositioning the over 47-years old market with a view to bringing it to global best standards.
The committee’s assertion is coming on the heels of a sustained allegations of illegal rents/ taxes collection and money- for- appointments being levelled against it by some groups within the market.
In a series of complaint statements made available to NewsCritic online by two of such groups which simply identified themselves as Concerned Ariaria Traders and Displaced Ariaria Shop Owners, they variously alleged that the two months old Interim Management Committee has been engaging in some corrupt activities such as the collection of between N300,000 and N400,000 for the appointment of zonal Coordinators for the market, N5000 from displaced Shop Owners for the submission of their enumeration forms to the government and collection of other sundry levies from traders and other market users contrary to government directives.
But the Chairman of the Committee Ozoekwe Chukwukadibia in an interaction with NewsCritic online on Friday August 8, 2023 described the allegations as not only mischievous but the handiwork of some entrenched forces who are yet to come to terms that the era of impunity and crass exploitation of traders by a few has come to end.
Flanked by some members of his Committee Chukwukadibia said the primary concern of the market leaders is to ensure the creation of an enabling environment for the thriving of business activities, and protection of the interests of genuine traders and other users of the market.
He noted that plans are afoot to ensure that all original shop owners whose property were affected by the ongoing remodelling and reconstruction of Ariaria are given back their shops under friendly terms.
“Much as it is not our intentions to allow ourselves to be distracted by some discredited elements, suffice it to say that there is no iota of truth in the alarm being raised.
For one, nobody has collected any money from anybody for the purposes of being appointed into any positions. That era as far as this management and present Abia State government are concerned is gone.
What we are however doing is that we the traders have decided to key into the government’s quest to improve the sanitary condition of our cities.
We want to assist the government with about 6 waste disposal buckets to be placed at some strategic locations at the market to help in curbing indiscriminate waste disposal. Each of this bucket is costing about N1.2 million.
Traders from the 84 zones of the market are making contributions which is not even more than N150,000 each zone.
Maybe this is what some mischief makers are insinuating as being fees for appointment as zonal coordinators.
In any case, to ensure that we have credible people as leaders of the market at all levels, the zonal coordinators are to be elected and we are now in the process. So, I wonder who is paying money to who for appointment, when we are talking about elections.
On the issue of alleged collection of money from displaced shop owners before accepting their property titles for onward submission to the government, Chukwukadibia noted that some of the people who are using other routes, such as the National Association of Nigerian Traders and Displaced Traders Association are paying between N10,000 and N20,000; adding that the primary concern of the Management Committee is how to engage all the relevant authorities on how best the displaced traders will be resettled .
“For now, we have activated negotiation with the developer Blessed Henken LTD and government on the way forward. The developer is saying that N5 million is needed by each shop owner to have his or her shop back, citing the high quality of the remodelled shops, and rising cost of building materials as reasons.
But we are trying to negotiate it down to the level that most of the traders could pay. Besides, we are working towards securing assistance from the authorities in the forms of soft loans and Instalment payments. In all we are optimistic that in the end it is going to be a wining situation for ever body”, Chukwukadibia stated.