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The Needed Services Of The Unwanted Population (I)

By Umar Shuaib

The importance of the informal activities of the low income group can never be overemphasized, due to the patronages they enjoy by the high income urban dwellers. These services include artisan works, such as vulcanizing, automobile mechanizing, brick laying, plumbing, petty trading of fruits grains, and other very cheap essential commodities and others.

The costs of many items at the petty trading spots are always very less in comparison to how they could be bought in the downtown supermarkets. But, accommodating the business structures and the habitat of the low income service providers in the urban fabric is always proving to be very difficult due to the expensive standards employed in the developments of modern Cities. Not only in Abuja but the world over. There was a time that a former Minister made a public statement that Abuja is not for the poor.

The plight of the urban poor in the prevailing modern world of maintaining standards in development requirements has always been begging for a sustainable solution. There were days, more than two decades ago that slums and other illegal developments were everywhere, spread in the Phase I of the Abuja City, including the Central Area. But the tenacity in the enforcement activities against the substandard developments always termed as ‘unwanted’, by the City Management Agency ensured that they were removed.

The center is attractive today due to the unwavering effort of the urban managers in pushing the unauthorized developments outside the City. The consequences are, the City dwellers that desire the cheap informal services of the urban poor have to contend with travelling to longer distances in order to reduce the expensive costs of shopping in the expensive shopping malls in the City.

These are the reasons for the heavy congestions at the weekly local markets in places like Gwagwa on Saturdays, Karmo on Tuesdays, Madalla on Thursdays, Diko along Kaduna Roads on Saturday, including as far as Idah, also along Kaduna Road. The IBB Market Suleja is always at its full capacities every Saturday due the influx of Abuja based customers.

Meanwhile, developments of shanties can never be eradicated, unless the life support activities of the low income dwellers improves and approaches the prevailing standard in the urbanized societies. Whatever services the slum developers offer are patronized by the high level income group privileged to be residing in the approved developments. So long as the patronage exist their trade, which is their only life support activities won’t cease, but removed from one place and emerge in other places.

Wuse market cannot be said to be fully modernized, but could be termed as one of the best example of the marriage between tradition and modernity. The location of the market right from the precolonial era as used by the former and original inhabitants has not been changed, but maintained in the Abuja land use plan as a market. However, in the series of activities that led to the present standard in the market, with a motor park, water, electricity fire station, and police presence, there were many enforcement activities by the Authority that removed many traders, either because they could not acquire shops or because their businesses are not big enough to afford the cost of the shops acquisition.

The plight of these and other traders affected by other enforcement activities in other parts of the City, necessitated the conversion of the location meant for the City Market at the Central Area District, to a temporary market, for use by the displaced traders, pending the appropriation of the resources for building it on permanent basis. That was the erstwhile market at the Central Area popularly known as ‘Bakasi’ Market.

Though the market served the needs of the City residents, but because it was on temporary basis, there were no supporting services like water, fire service, police station and standard electricity. The result was frequent fire outbreak and so much security breaches. The market paved way for the development of the Abuja World Trade Center. Although, there were merits of the upgrade, being a befitting development for the caliber of the Abuja standard, but it was a deviation from the original concept of having modern traditional market, such that many of the informal traders can have accommodation for their businesses, akin to the Wuse Market.

The further displacement of the low income traders from the ‘Bakasi’ led to the illegal establishment of the notorious Dutse district Panteka market by the displaced traders, on already allocated lands. At that time actual developments in the area didn’t commence, because there were no infrastructure, and the City physical development activities is yet to catch up with the area. It is an illegal market, yet, because the services provided by the illegal operators are needed, there were patronages hence it flourishes.

To Continue…


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