The rebuilding of the Kugbo furniture market is in progress following a recent fire incident. Many of the traders are on the verge of recovering from their losses, making do with what they have while waiting on the government for support.
After the outbreak, rumours spread among the traders that the government was considering relocating them out of the space.
For many businessmen at the market, they started the year on a tragic note, with the fire outbreak of Sunday, Jan. 10, which resulted in a lot of financial losses.
HumAngle reported how Francis Daniel Azi, one of the affected traders, lost four of his shops to the inferno and has suffered a similar loss twice, the first time being a few years ago.
According to The Nation newspaper, over 80 timber shades and 300 furniture shops were burnt alongside countless valuables.
On Jan. 18, the Deputy Governor of Nasarawa State, Emmanuel Akabe, visited the market to assess the damage done by the fire. He assured the traders that the state government was willing to make available warehouses and shops at the Muhammadu Buhari International Market at Mararaba. This, he said, would come with a three-month rent-free usage and a cash gift.
The Deputy Governor also held a closed meeting with the union executives to deliberate on other ways the state can help the affected traders.
This offer fueled the stories that had been making rounds at the market and traders started to wonder if there was truth to the relocation plans by the government.
Fact or Myth?
Richard Achimugu, a businessman and joiner at the market told HumAngle that although his shop narrowly escaped being burnt down by the fire, the issue of relocation is a story that has spread through the market.
HumAngle spoke to David Okafor, the Chairman of the Timber Shed Association of Kugbo Furniture Market, and asked if there were indeed plans by the government to move the traders elsewhere. He replied that, for now, no such plans have been communicated.
“As of what the Deputy Governor of Nasarawa said, although there is an existing International Market at Mararaba, he told the victims he is willing to give them space there, but there are no official relocation plans,” he said.
He added that if there is a relocation plan, then they have to be compensated by the government.
Okafor said that the union itself has assisted some of the traders with cash to start rebuilding. “The union leaders have assisted some of the traders with cash for them to be able to rebuild their shops,” he said.
He pointed out that the current plan was to rebuild the shops, adding that the FCT Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) visited the site on Monday, Jan. 18, to determine how they could help with building materials.
He said he had a meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 19, with the Federal Ministry Of Environment’s Department Of Pollution Control and Environmental Health on a plan to create a new structure that would be environment-friendly. The focus of this arrangement was especially the roofs that were usually made with zinc.
“The union will have a say on that, the pattern of the building will not be changed but the roof will no longer be zinc,” he noted.
From the following week, reconstruction would begin following the meeting with the department, he informed HumAngle.
Abbas Idriss, Director General, FCT Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on a phone conversation with HumAngle, said, FEMA, plans to intervene with those who lost their properties to the fire outbreak.
When asked what type of intervention he said only the FCT Minister, Mohammed Bello, had power to decide.
He pointed out that there were already plans to assist the traders: “FEMA is still assessing the extent of the loss and collating the date; then we can make our recommendations.”
Azi, who already cleared the debris from his shop and was getting ready to rebuild, told HumAngle he was preparing to accommodate the union’s plan to introduce new fire-resistant structures.
Land Owners that Control the Kugbo Market
The Kugbo market has different landowners, including the government and private individuals.
Okafor mentioned to HumAngle that land is controlled by the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA), because the market was regional, that is known for selling a particular commodity.
He said the union was a piece of land to develop and sub-lease in accordance with a plan issued by the FCDA. Azi’s land, for example, was allocated to him by the union.
Achimugu said his own shop, also within the market, is on private land and owned by an individual. The land owner, he said, has driven out the carpenters occupying his space following the fire incident. “He decided to double their rent two days after the fire,” he added.
Raphael Onuh, owner of JR furniture whose shop was also affected by the fire, told HumAngle that he has not been able to rebuild because his structure was built in front of a fenced private land. The fenced property is owned by a private individual who has now asked all of the occupiers situated close-by and inside the land to vacate.
Onuh had bought a makeshift shop (popularly called batcher), which unknown to him was on a government pipeline and not allocated for building.
“The place is an open field but on a government pipeline which I did not know at the time. The government would not allow anyone to build something there,” he said.
He doubts if the union can help and plans to get a proper space as soon as he can to reduce the risk of fire outbreaks.