Commuters and motorists are groaning over the indiscriminate activities of traders who operate along roadsides in Bauchi State, leading to chaotic traffic, Daily Trust Saturday reports.
Many of the local markets along the highways in Bauchi State are subjecting residents and travellers to hardship associated with gridlock and accidents.
The village markets have stampede of traders showcasing and selling their goods on the shoulders of the highways and other activities like loading unloading bags of grains, wrong parking of vehicles, especially trucks, on market days
Investigation revealed that there are over 30 local markets operating along the five routes that link the state with neighbouring states and our correspondent who visited some of the markets reports.
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A commercial driver, Abubakar Sani, said, “There are many local markets along the highways in Bauchi State, but the worst among them is the Alkaleri Market in Alkaleri LGA which is held every Sunday. Sometimes because of the heavy traffic we have to drop the passengers who then trek long distances to pass the market area to get other vehicles to continue their journey.”
A shop owner in Alkaleri, Habibu Suleiman, said, “Every Sunday, due to the heavy traffic, both residents and traders used to have a series of misunderstandings and conflicts with drivers and motorcyclists.
“The state government needs to quickly intervene to either expand the road or complete the bypass to reduce the suffering of travellers and residents, because every market day records road accidents.”
Danlami Adamu, the secretary of grain traders in Alkaleri, said, “Government should find an alternative space to relocate the market, because the grains section is largely responsible for the traffic congestion in the Alkaleri Market. I strongly believe that if the authorities relocate the grain traders there will be free flow of traffic on market days.
“Another area of concern is the traders who have refused to leave the highway despite enlightenment and pleas to stop displaying their goods on the road.”
The Chairman of the National Youth Council (NYC), Alkaleri branch, Comrade Bala Mohammed Duguri, said, “Alkaleri Market has grown beyond imagination to the extent that the space cannot accommodate the traders, vehicles, livestock and other goods on market days.”
He explained that, “When the market was established 50 years ago there was a distance of more than two kilometres from Alkaleri town, but development has taken over the market and turned it into the middle of the town. That is the reason for the traffic congestion.”
He noted that with relocating and expanding the market, “The government stands to benefit from generating more revenue because traders from across the country visit Alkaleri Market every Sunday to transact their businesses, especially livestock, as cattle from Cameroon are brought to Alkaleri.”
Danjuma Muhammed, leader of cattle traders in Alkaleri, attributed the congestion to the attitude of traders, influx of people on the market and lack of an alternative road for other travellers to bypass the market.
He said, “The indiscriminate parking of vehicles, uploading of market produce on the road and traders displaying their goods on the only road are the major causes of the congestion. We have made several requests to the local government council to relocate our cattle market because the traffic congestion is affecting our economic activities.
“The DPO in Alkaleri and the road safety use to deploy their men to decongest the road every market day, but the road is narrowed by the activities of some traders selling on the road and commercial drivers who park indiscriminately. Already, the state government has commenced a bypass road which we believe will address the challenge.”
Another market that puts untold hardship on travellers is the Soro Market on the Bauchi-Maiduguri highway in Ganjuwa LGA which is held every Saturday.
A traveller, Bakari Alhaji Modu, who transacts perfume from Maiduguri to Bauchi, told Daily Trust Saturday, “It is terrible passing through Soro on a market day because one spends more than three hours in gridlock.”
A trader in Soro, Abdulsalam Abdullahi, said austere economic conditions forced them to display their commodities on the shoulders of the road.
He said, “We don’t have the means to rent shops inside the market. Even when you have a shop in the market nobody will buy your commodity. I sell cooked cassava and other commodities with a capital not more than N10,000. How do you expect me to rent a shop which is more than my entire capital?
“We too don’t want to stay on the roadsides, but our economic conditions have forced us to display so as to have a means of survival.”
Another trader selling dates on the highway in Soro, Ibrahim Audu, said, “If you go into the market nobody will buy your goods. We know the dangers associated with selling on the highway and we are doing this trade with fear of accidents because there is no market day without either a minor or a major road accident in the market, but that is the only source of our livelihood.
Suleiman Yusuf, a trader hawking mats in Soro, said, “We know the dangers of trading on the road. My colleague is at home with a fracture after a vehicle knocked him down in the market three weeks ago.”
One of the leaders in Soro Market, Bala Alhaji Haruna Sarkin Tike Soro, said, “The traditional ruler of Soro has set up a task force about the traffic congestion comprising the police, civil defence, road safety and vigilantes.”
Haruna noted that, “Market leaders evolved various methods to resolve the problem, especially enlightening the traders about the dangers of trading on the highway, but our efforts were not successful because the grain traders are uploading their goods on the bypass road and right now they have blocked it completely.”
At the Gadar Maiwa Market in Ningi LGA on the Bauchi-Kano road, the Chairman of the market, Haruna Adamu, lamented that the traffic congestion at the market was worrisome due to the frequent accidents and keeping travellers stranded for hours on market days.
He said, “We are not happy with the wasting of travellers’ time for hours due to gridlock caused by the traders. We are working with the police, road safety, civil defence and vigilantes to control the traffic in every market, but the situation is beyond our control due to the influx of people.
“We are appealing to the state government to help us construct a bypass because the immediate past administration made an effort to do the bypass but was not successful.
“Also, the market needs to be expanded to decongest the traffic.”
Isa Ibrahim, a leader of cattle traders at the Gadar Maiwa Market, said, “Every market day officials assemble on the road to ensure vehicles enter the motor park and don’t park on the road because the highway is narrow.
“The challenge has compelled some travellers to shift their journeys to skip Mondays (market days) for fear of the gridlock at Gadar Maiwa.”
Another gridlock-prone highway is the Bauchi-Jos road which has become a death with a high record of accidents as it hosts five major roadside markets, especially the Nabardo Market and the Tilden Fulani Market.
A taxi driver, Salisu Lawnan, who recently knocked down three people at the Tilden Fulani Market, said, “Last month I was driving from Jos to Bauchi and I met a gridlock at Tilden Fulani on a Tuesday; the market day. We were stranded for over one hour. When the traffic eased I took off not knowing that my break had failed. I rammed into some traders and three of them were injured,” adding that, “The situation is the same at the Nabardo Market on Saturdays, as well as the Magama Gumau Market.”
The Sector Commander of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) in Bauchi State, Yusuf Abdullahi, lamented that the traders defied all efforts made to tackle the situation.
He said, “Stakeholders must unite to confront the challenge, including government, the communities and critical actors in market affairs.
“I can say Bauchi State has the highest number of markets on major highways, and I have my personnel across all the LGAs.
“What we are saying is that we are doing our best. It also rests on other stakeholders to do needful to address the problem. The best solution is relocation of the markets from the highways as quickly as possible.
“The reason why I said relocation is the best solution is that when the forefathers that we are referring to opened those markets the populations were about 1/100 per cent with what is obtainable today. The markets have continued to expand due to economic development of the state, but that should not put the lives of the people in danger.”
When contacted, a spokesman to Bauchi State Governor, Comrade Mukhtari Gidado, said the state government had put in place machinery to decongest all the markets in the state, especially those along the highways.
Gidado said, “Government is also worried about the situation because the challenges have been there even before the advent of this administration. Already, the state government has commenced construction of bypasses in some LGAs like Alkaleri to decongest the markets.”
“Secondly, the law of the Bauchi State Road Transport Agency (BAROTA), which was designed to decongest roads, when it comes fully into action, will reduce illegal trading on the roads and traders will return to shops in the markets.
“Additionally, the government has concluded plans of constructing modern markets in Bauchi, Katagum and Misau, apart from the existing ones like the Muda Lawal Market that the government is working to expand, with a view to cushion the effects of the congestion in markets across the state.”