Adelani Adepegba, Abuja
Angry traders on Saturday blocked the Umaru Yar’Adua Expressway over the demolition of Gosa Market along the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport area.
The traders made bonfires on both sides of the road and prevented motorists and travellers from using the highway, leading to a long queue of vehicles.
Our correspondent learnt that officials of the Abuja Metropolitan Management Council (AMMC) had stormed the market earlier in the day with armed policemen and pulled down open stalls and other structures in the market.
But shortly after leaving the scene, the traders mobilised to the market in protest and shut down the highway, forcing commuters to trek long distance and frustrating air travellers who were rushing to the airport to catch their flights.
The situation was later brought under control by a team of soldiers and policemen who dispersed the protesters and removed the barricades on the road to ensure free flow of traffic.
A witness, Sunny Okoh, said he was on his way to Gwagwalada, a satellite town in the Federal Capital Territory, when he was forced to disembark from a bus by the mob whom he said took over both sides of the highway chanting war songs.
“It was like a film. The traders set bonfires on the road and prevented vehicles from passing. They also defied soldiers and policemen who were drafted to restore normalcy. We spent over one hour before the situation was brought under control by security operatives,” he said.
A trader, who identified himself only as Jonathan, said they were not given adequate notice by the AMMC before the demolition was carried out, noting that some traders lost their wares during the exercise.
He said the demolition had deprived his colleagues of their means of livelihood.
“I don’t understand why a government that is not providing jobs is taking away people’s means of income; is that fair?” he asked.
But Sani Abubakar, a media aide to the FCT Minister, Muhammad Bello, explained that part of the market was demolished because it constituted a nuisance.
“The market constituted a nuisance to the free flow of traffic along the airport area and no responsible government will sit by and watch the illegality being perpetrated by the traders,” he said on the phone.
The AMMC Coordinator, Umar Shuaibu, told PUNCH Metro that only a section of the market was pulled down because it was too close to the highway.
He said, “Anybody that is coming to Nigeria and landing in the capital at the Abuja airport will use the road and whatever he sees along the road is what he will use to judge Nigeria, not just the FCT or Gosa where the market is located. So, we have to protect the nation’s image.
“There is always obstruction of traffic on that road every Friday and it is because of that market; the market is not supposed to be there. There was an agreement with the traders that the market should be at least 500 metres away from the road and they have been violating that. We did not touch any goods, grains or other commodities, we only destroyed empty market stalls.”
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