Shehu Dahiru is one of the traders who celebrated the recent court ruling that ordered the Kaduna State Government to reinstate 4,600 shop owners to the famous Kasuwar Bacci market and adequately compensate them.
It is two years after Governor Nasir el-Rufai instructed bulldozers to bring down the structures of the over 40-year-old market and others across the state in order to pave way for modern structures with facilities, as part of his administration’s urban renewal project.
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Shop owners in Kasuwar Bacci, who insisted that government had no right over their shops, had challenged the state government by seeking a court injunction, which the governor ignored. Relief, however, came their way last week when a state High Court ruled in favour of the shop owners and instructed the state government to reinstate 4,600 of them and adequately compensate them.
Justice A. Edward Andow, in his judgement, pronounced that the Kaduna State Government lacked the constitutional power to unilaterally take over the Kasuwar Bacci market in the way and the manner it did. He explained that by its action, the state government breached the constitutional provision which vested the creation and operation of markets in local governments.
With this judgement, a shop owner, Shehu Dahiru, who sells second-hand clothes, popularly known as ‘gwanjo’ and one of those who lost their shops in 2020, said he was happy that victory came their way at last.
“We suffered greatly because the shops were our only sources of income. My aged dad had a shop, I had one and my younger brother also had. This business (gwanjo) is what we do as a family to feed the family. But all the shops were lost in 2020 without compensation,” he said.
When Shehu and other shop owners hit the streets of Kaduna to celebrate the court judgement, they were interrupted by the police from the Unguwar Sunusi division, an action that led to a commotion.
The traders expressed optimism that they would get their shops back following the court victory if the Kaduna State Government would obey the ruling.
Ustaz Nasiru, another shop owner, said four of his shops were demolished in 2020, adding that his 80-year-old father had owned the shops for more than 30 years before the state government demolished them.
“My father came to this market 30 years ago and owned the shops, but they have been demolished. We felt very bad when they were brought down, but with the court judgement, we are hoping that life would return to normal,” he said.
Another trader who spoke with our correspondent said it was outrageous that shop owners were asked to deposit N2million to be allocated shops when the new market is eventually completed and ready for use.
Our correspondent who came across price tags for shops by the developer, Urban Shelter Limited, reports that open stalls are going for N1 million, while those on ground and second floors cost between N1.750 and N4.5 million, depending on size.
When Daily Trust Saturday visited the market, which is under construction, labourers were seen working.
The Kaduna Market Development and Management Company, which is in charge of the market, has remained mum on the court ruling as the company’s managing director, Tamar Nandul, told our correspondent on phone that he would not comment on it.
The chairman of the shop owners’ union, Alhaji Abdullahi Maikano Kaya-kaya, recalled that in 2020 when the state government issued them a notice to vacate the market premises, they sought audience with Governor El-Rufai but both parties could not reach an agreement.
He said the traders pleaded with the governor to either allow them build the shops themselves using an authorised government’s building plan or relocate them to a new area pending when the state government would rebuild the shops and return to them. Kaya-kaya said the government had rejected their proposal; hence their decision to seek legal redress.
“Up till when Kasuwar Bacci was demolished, we were up-to-date with revenue payment. The market was fully managed by shop owners because all the shops were built by individuals, unlike other markets that were built and leased out by the Kaduna State Government.
“Our expectation from the government was that since it was aware that we built our shops ourselves on the land given to us, they should have either relocated the market or adequately compensated us. Instead, they ignored us and went ahead to demolish the shops,” he said.
He said the traders expected the Kaduna State Government to respect the judgement and reinstate the shop owners, as well as compensate them accordingly, especially since some of the victims have died while others are ill.