The new modern markets built in Damaturu, Gashua and Nguru LGAs of Yobe State to accelerate economic growth and create more jobs had temporarily brought joy to prospective businessmen and women who are now faced with a myriad of issues, especially cost of rent and therefore called for a review.
The markets were built by the administration of Governor Mai Mala Buni, with a total of 1,515 shops and stores on owner occupier basis with Gashua, Damaturu and Nguru having 505 shops each.
Also, these multi billion-naira markets have facilities that include open-shops, lock-up shops, streetlights, restaurants, banking halls, warehouses, mosques, police post, clinic, and parking lots.
In September 2022; January 2023 and February 2023, the markets located in the headquarters of Gashua, Damaturu and Nguru LGAs were commissioned by Senate president, Ahmad Lawan; President Muhammadu Buhari; and Gombe State governor, Inuwa Yahaya, respectively.
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Although the markets have been commissioned, Daily Trust Saturday confirmed that all the shops in Gashua and Nguru markets are not occupied as the market remains closed, while those in Damaturu, commissioned by President Buhari, are still at the completion stage.
Daily Trust Saturday findings also showed that numerous traders boycotted the shops as the price was too exorbitant, or even exceeded their capital, and therefore ruled out their chances of renting the shops, while others expressed fear of losing their customers, since the market is new.
In a bid to woo traders, the state government has approved a 35 per cent reduction in the yearly rent of shops in the newly commissioned modern market to support and encourage traders, against the initial recommendation by the State Committee on Allocation of Shops.
Based on our findings, a Ground Floor Prime View Double was to be rented at N468,000 per annum but was reduced to N304,200 while the Ground Floor Prime View Single initially put at N390,000 is now N253,500p.a.
Similarly, the Ground Floor Prime View with two face that was to attract N442,000 is now N287,300 per annum, and Ground Floor others Double put at N390,000 is now reduced to N253,500.
The Ground Floor—Single initially with a rent tag of N325,000 will now cost N211,250p.a while Ground Floor—Two Face is to attract N253,500 against the initial price of N390,000.
The Upstairs Prime View Double has been reduced to N253,500 against the former rate of N390,000 while Upstairs Prime View Single will now cost N211,250 against N325,000 initial price.
The Upstairs Prime View two face now costs N236,600 and the Upstairs Others Double is pegged at N169,000 while Upstairs Others Single will now attract N152,100p.a.
The two face Upstairs Others earlier approved for N260,000 is now to be rented out at N169,000 while Block B Standard now attracts N211,250 against N325,000.
Block B Regular will be given out for N185,900 against N286,000 while Block C now goes for N211,250 against N325,000 and the Meat Shop Slabs goes for N105,625 against the initial rate of N162,500.
Daily Trust Saturday learnt that out of 505 shops in Nguru, less than 200 traders expressed their interest to occupy the shops as many of them found it difficult to pay the rents. Apart from that, members of the trade union in the town were unable to secure more than 20 shops in the markets.
When contacted, Alhaji Ibrahim Maitakalmi, the chairman of Yobe Marketers Association in Nguru Local Government, said the market has 505 shops but the state government produced 200 interest forms for the traders.
“To the best of my knowledge, the state government has distributed 200 interest forms for traders who want to occupy the shops, the ministry of commerce said whoever fills the form should attach N5,000 and submit it to me. So far, so good, at least 200 forms have been submitted to me.
“As chairman of this union, I was not contacted on the distribution of these forms. People collect these forms from the ministry, and the ministry of commerce does not seek our advice or input on this issue. I was only asked to receive the forms if these people submit it to me,” he said.
“The issue is that the price of these shops is too high for our local traders. Most of these marketers are low profit earners, some are petty traders, some are perishable food sellers, and so on. Therefore, telling these people to pay N300,000 annually before you retain the shops that you occupy is impossible.
“Traders and businessmen in Yobe have suffered a lot starting from Naira redesign, inflation, recession and fire outbreak which destroyed more than 300 shops. As I speak to you, if you support these people with N150, 000 as a soft loan to improve their capital, they would really appreciate it. The Senate President has supported our members with N100 million meant to boost their business. This will help our petty traders; we were expecting the government to subsidise these shops for our low-income earners,” he said.
According to him, in a few weeks, the union will meet with Governor Mai Mala Buni, to tell him the actual problems of the traders so he can intervene in the issue.
Daily Trust Saturday gathered that Nguru modern market was commissioned in February, yet the government has not issued any approval for businesses to take off.
Commenting on the situation, Alhaji Nasir Mato, the Chairman of United Marketers Association of Potiskum, who spoke to Daily Trust Saturday reporter alleged that politicians have distributed the shops to themselves, and not to real traders as the government intends to do.
“The government did not seek advice from the business experts and experienced traders before building and allocating these markets. If government wants to execute a project like this, it should contact businessmen like us who have been in the system for long. If government can build 2,350 houses and slashing of 50 per cent cost, I see no reason such thing should not be done for our traders by asking them to pay 30 per cent of the cost of these shops through monthly or quarterly payment before they own the shops.”
He said the traders feel that renting the shops/markets is temporary and therefore they cannot invest heavily because the government can re-allocate the shops to someone else if they are unable to meet up with payment.
“More than 50 per cent of our traders don’t have N1 million as capital, so how do you expect a provision seller with a capital of N500,000 to pay N400,000 or N300,000 to rent a shop? How do you expect him to raise such amount annually? How do you expect him to fend for his family and meet up other obligations?
He expressed worries that if care is not taken, the markets would remain closed till the end of Buni’s administration.
In an interview with Alhaji Babangida Sabo Gashua, the Chairman of Trade Union in Gashua, he said although the state government has slashed the prices of the shops in Senator Ahmed Lawan market but their members cannot still rent the shops as many are battling with capital and cash flow issues.
“Information available to us shows that the number of traders who have rented these shops is not encouraging. I think it is the main reason why this market has remained closed.”
The call for government to structure the allocation of shops and slash the rent by 50 per cent have been intensified by relevant stakeholders in Yobe State. The Yobe business community called on the government to slash the price and investigate how the shops have been allocated by the relevant stakeholders in the state.
The Yobe State chairman of Harmonized Traders Association, Alhaji Usman Ma’azu, said Governor Mai Mala Buni has done well by building the markets in a bid to boost the economic fortunes of the state. He added that the aim of building the markets has, however, been defeated as a result of irregularities and high price of renting of the shops.
“These markets have been commissioned as you know, but commercial activities are yet to take off. The reason for the delay is sketchy but we are going to have a meeting with the state commissioner on these issues.
“Secondly, we were not contacted before government fixed the prices of these shops. Our members are lamenting that the price is still too much for SMEs and low profit earners. Therefore, for these shops to be occupied by our traders, the price must be cut and also government should allocate these shops to the real traders not just politicians as we are seeing now,” he said.
“The people who have been allocated these shops are not businessmen but they obtained them through their closeness to the governor. So, we need government to allocate these shops to the real traders,” he added.
When contacted, the Yobe State Commissioner of Commerce, Industry and Tourism, Hon Barma Shattima, said the state government has announced the price of the shops for interested traders to occupy. He said the government has slashed the price by 35 per cent against the initial price which the government announced.
“When these markets were commissioned, the state government asked interested traders to fill the forms produced by the ministry of commerce and submit to us for documentation. These trade unions collected the forms, filled and submitted, and we have selected qualified traders who can rent these shops.
“However, the number of traders who paid is not enough to employ the technical team of the market and other necessary things that the market needs daily, like cleaners, security, among others.
“Those who paid are not up to 40 or 50, so how do you expect us to employ all these technical teams and maintenance only to take care of 50 traders in a market that has more than 505 shops?” he asked.
According to him, the committee on Allocation of Shops would hand over the markets to the traders once the number of occupiers increases. He added that Damaturu and Nguru markets would be allocated to interested traders who pay their rent as announced by the government.
Responding to the prices of the shops, the commissioner said the traders have never written any letter to the state committee on allocation of shops or the state ministry to complain about the price of the shops.
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