A company by name All Purpose Shelter Limited and the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) were forced by an Abuja High Court to abide by the business terms they entered with Abuja traders under the banner Association of Wuye Modern Market Allottees (AWUMMA). These traders who were sacked from the Bakasi Market were relocated by FCTA to Wuye and were offered allocation letters there.
But a private firm (All Purpose Shelter Limited) was contracted to develop the market for the traders. Upon completion of works, the traders were subjected to stifling conditions. The traders approached Abuja High Court in Suit No. FCT/HC/440/2012 (Abba Dennis & 706 Ors vs Minister FCT & 2 Orts) and won their case. But bringing the court judgment into force is becoming even tougher.
The Permanent Secretary, FCT, John Chukwu in a public notice on October 2, 2015 urged the original allottees of the market (called plaintiffs/traders in this report) to approach the developer of Wuye Market with original or certified copy of letters of Provisional Offer of Allocation of Shops/Open Spaces dated October 23, 2002 for collection of necessary bills/fees payable.
Paragraph two of the public notice signed by Solicitor-General, Legal Service Secretariat FCTA for Permanent Secretary FCT directed the plaintiffs to go to the administrative block in the market for the exercise.
Similarly, an advertorial signed by the Chief Executive Officer of Abuja Investments Company Limited (AICL) AICL, Musa Musa in the Sun on October 1, 2015 directed the plantiffs to go the market for recovery of premises process.
But our reporters who visited the place last week saw that the market was still under lock with policemen stationed at the entrance preventing the plaintiffs entry into the market.
The aggrieved traders brandished documents reading: “Corruption! Illegality and outright disregard of [sic] court judgment at Wuye Market by Mrs Yemisi Suswam and her company; Be warned and informed…Nigerians, help tell Mrs Yemisi Suswam, wife of the former governor of Benue State to obey court judgment and allow us to enjoy shops as the court has decided; FCT Per Sec save us from Mrs Yemisi Suswam Wuye market traders; Mrs Yemisi go back to Benue State Don’t oppress Abuja Traders; When will the voice of the masses trao [sic] be heard over the intimidation and injustice at Wuye market with the assistance of the police.”
Mr Jibrin Samuel Okutepa SAN spoke for Mrs Suswam on phone denying that the woman is not behind what the traders are facing.
The plaintiffs warned the general public in one of the documents saying, Nigerians be informed and warned that there is a court judgment and anybody that fouls or ignores it and buys a shop in Wuye Market does so at their own risk. According to them, there is attempt “to rewrite or review the court judgment outside the court”.
Our reporters reported that policemen sat down with their guns at the entrance to the market. Officials of the All Purpose Shelter Limited sat under canopies next to the police attending to visitors. There was no official of AICL. AICL, the business development and investment holding company for FCTA stood in for FCTA in the Wuye Market transactions with the developer, the All Purpose Shelters Limited.
When Daily Trust went to the AICL office in Garki, the receptionist said the Chief Executive Officer of AICL, Musa Musa was not present. Upon insistence to see the next officer, our reporters were given form to fill but they waited in vain.
One of the traders who gave his name only as Fred said based on the public notice, they came to the market to take their shops but met the market locked.
“The developer, instead of complying with judgment, they continue selling the shops to the general public on behalf of the traders. This is what led to the gathering you seeing here. They made advertisements in the media that people should come with original offer letters.”
He said traders were not opposed to paying charges as stipulated by law like ground rent or service charge to the developer but would oppose any underhand deals.
According to him, the police denied them access to the market on the instruction of the woman who is involved in the development of the market, using her political influence.
“What surprised us is that even when we came this morning, they did not address us but were selling the shops to the people who are not part [beneficiaries] of the judgment. We want government to come to our aid even as we’re going back to court to let them know that the judgment hasn’t been honoured,” he said.
An official of All Purpose Shelter Limited, Mr Folorunsho Abegunle denied that the traders were denied access to the market saying management wants to verify those claiming to have titles. He said the traders had sold their original allocation papers. “The traders have been collecting money from people saying they own the market. The offer letters given out were 6,000 while the shops are 1,600. How do you allocate them to such numbers? They were told that it would be first come first served and 1,200 of shop have already been given out remaining only 400,” Abegunle explained. This figure given by Abegunle is contrary figure given on February 6, 2014 by market management. His figure on number of traders is also contrary to what was contained in the court judgment which gave 706.
A buyer of a shop in the market who said he is not among the plaintiffs told our reporters that he had been given the key to his shop. The trader who refused to disclose his name said he paid N3.2 million to the developer for shop in the market.
The full story
Wuye Ultra-Modern Market, Abuja is a Private-Partnership (PPP) project between FCTA and the All Purpose Shelter Limited, a company wife of erstwhile governor of Benue State, Yemisi Suswam has interest in. The agreement was that the All Purpose Shelter Limited would build the market and manage it for the duration of the reversionary period of 13 years then transfer to AICL.
The market was commissioned by former President Goodluck Jonathan in company of his wife Patience, former Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Minister Bala Mohammed and former Benue State governor Gabriel Suswam with his wife Yemisi.
Former FCT Minister stated that the Wuye Ultra-Modern Market is a success story by the FCTA under PPP project execution model. Though commissioned since Feb. 6, 2014, the place has remained under lock due to intervening court orders. Though the court had restrained business activities, Jonathan went ahead to officially cut the tape.
In response to a letter from Daily Trust to AICL demanding reasons for non use of the facility, the Legal Adviser of AICL, Mrs Francisca Ibezim acknowledged that the property was under encumbrances. In a letter to Media Trust dated Aug. 13, 2014, Ibezim stated in paragraph seven that the High Court of FCT had since May 22, 2013 “issued an injunction…ordering parties to maintain status quo with regards to the operation of the market pending the determination of the said matter”.
The court determined the matter on April 29, 2015 following which a warrant was issued. The Warrant for Repossession of Premises issued on June 9, 2015 read: “Plaintiffs to wit, Dennis Abah and others shall take possession of their various shops situated and lying at Wuye Market now called Wuye Ultra Modern Market in Wuye District, Abuja.” The warrant clearly ordered the defendants to give the plaintiffs possession of the shops.
The controversial market sits on Plot No.116 Cadastral Zone B03. This plot was allocated to traders when Bakasi Market was demolished. Traders were given direct allocations by Aba Gana, the FCT Minister at the time as compensation to traders that were displaced.
Chairman National Association of Nigerian Traders (NANTs), FCT Chapter, Prince Edozie Ugwu said traders were not carried along in the Wuye market project. NANTs is umbrella body for all traders in Nigeria. He explained, “Even the day that market was commissioned traders weren’t aware. Traders aren’t carried along even in the allocation of shops in that market. How the allocation was done, traders don’t know. The commissioning, just like every other person saw on television, that was how traders also saw on television that that market was commissioned.”
During Nasir el-Rufai’s time as FCT Minister, these allocations by Gana were nullified. According to NANTs chairman, “We received complaints and we wrote FCTA but we got no reply. We sought meeting the minister. Each time we went there they would tell us they would call us till that place was commissioned. A lot of things went wrong.”
The multi-billion naira Wuye Ultra-Modern Market with 2,000 shopping facility was built on 7.3 hectares of land. This is the only market in the whole of Wuye district. FCTA’s principal role was the provision of land and primary infrastructure while the developer provided project finance and the technical capacity for the project implementation.
On Sept. 18, 2013, AICL was served a Writ of Summons commenced by the earlier allottees. Yet the market was commissioned by the president on Feb. 6, 2014.
Before the opening ceremony, members of the public were made to put millions of naira into the project to become shop owners even as original title holders had not been given their shops yet. One prospective shop owner said she paid a non-refundable N50,000 to All Purpose Shelters Limited to get an application form to fill to enable her get a shop. She paid another N4.4million to the same firm for Shop Type C in the market. By the time she was doing the payment, she was assured that the market would be commissioned soon.
All Purpose Shelter Limited was unknown firm until the Wuye Market crisis blew up. The company’s construction site is not known either. Our reporter who checked the company’s website last week could not pin-point what show All Purpose Shelter Limited as a firm that has been doing big contracts. Its address as shown on the website is Plot 1134, Aminu Kano Crescent, Wuse II, FCT, Abuja, Nigeria.
Source: Daily Trust Newspaper