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The Needed Services Of The Unwanted Population (II)

By Umar Shuaib

The informal service providers derived their recognition in the fabric of the city structure from the adoption of the neighbourhood concept in the City planning. It was recognized that Nigeria has important urban tradition. The varied ways in which Nigerian cities evolved and related was not ignored. The planners consider failure in the recognition and accommodation of indigenous patterns of urban organization in the planning of Nigerian cities as a major shortcoming.

From the analysis of the Savanna Cities, the Forest Cities and the New Towns that were built to satisfy colonial administrative and economic needs, it was established that there were reasonable walking distances to traditional markets. That is why, whether they were provided in the plans or not, in all our big cities including highbrow areas of Ikoyi and Victoria Island in Lagos, informal kiosks within neighbourhoods for trading of simple essential commodities are always witnessed, despite frequent enforcement activities by the City managers, they always reappear in different forms and enjoy patronage from the neighbourhood. Many of them survive with the encouragement of the residents, so long as they don’t constitute security threats according to their judgements.

The Abuja masterplan incorporated the provision of the Nigerian type modern markets in the City fabric, hence the adoption of the original Wuse Market and provision of the City Central Market at the Central Area District. That was the consideration before the actual physical development of the City commences. But City developments are accompanied with metamorphosis in values. The environmental challenges that ensued, coupled with the consideration of the scale of the surrounding developments, the type of market envisaged was considered as unbefitting for the economic value of the area by the subsequent administration. Hence, the conversion of the Central area market for use as the World Trade Center.

Because the City needs the services as originally conceived, but now distorted, a regional market at Dei-Dei with adequate accessibility was conceived to serve as a substitute. It should be observed that, that concept was now removed away from the City Center to the fringe. It was a deliberate policy in order to free the City Center from the usual bustling and congestion associated with markets located at City Centers. Unfortunately, adequate attention was not accorded for the takeoff of the Regional Market. The result now is the Dei-Dei Market is a ghost of itself, instead of being a very useful facility for the wellbeing of the City, it was transformed to a ghetto and criminals hideout.

Thus the Dei-Dei Regional Market that is formally recognized, but poorly implemented, and the Dutse illegal ‘Panteka’ Market and many others, were all products of the failures of the erstwhile Central Area ‘Bakassi’ Market relocation. The Dutse Market had been witnessing several enforcement exercises in order to remove the encumbrances that prevent the legal plot owners to take possession and develop, but the traders were undeterred by shifting forward to annex the next lands from the location they were driven out. So long as there are patronages from the City residents the informal activity termed illegal continue unabated.

The neighbourhood concept as incorporated in the planning of Abuja, is actually compatible to our tradition as Nigerians, and is among the things that would have gave Abuja those unique characteristics that are lacking in other capital cities of the world. The principle is for the residents to obtain their essential needs without traversing across any major arterial road. For those commodities not available within, to be obtained at the District Centers and subsequently to graduate to the City Center at the ultimate. Really, there are economic and environmental considerations for the removal of the facility at the City Center, but the foregoing were the social implications.

Formal services are more closely related to business and government activities in the Central Area or sector employment centers, while informal services are related closely to household activities. Trade and transport serve both the formal or informal types of activities. What we can now deduce is that there is a recognition for the inclusion and a place for the informal services providers for the wellbeing of the Cities in the plans, but, the corporate values in urbanization process of our cities considers obsolete, takes precedence and relegates to the fringes. When the process catches up with it at the fringes it is further pushed forward.

In order to mitigate the phenomenon, the Authority would have to resuscitate the effort and make the Regional Market a reality. Also, there should be a deliberate policy for the provision of informal markets in some areas of the City, either on temporal or permanent basis. After all even in the advanced worlds like the City of London, a market as the Liverpool Street weekly informal market exists.


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