A constant and common hope most traders in Oruko market share before trading on market days is the hope of total sunshine. While this hope has many undertones, its reason is primarily the potency of possible rainfall which can send them packing up, running shelter helter-skelter.
Because of the limited number of usable stalls within the market, many traders have, over the years, become accustomed to selling their wares in the open or makeshift stands. But this, according to most of them, is not good for commerce as any hint of rainfall will surely hinder sales, and there are fears of loss and damage of wares from the downpour.
“The traders are suffering, especially during this rainy season. When it rains, traders have to find ways to cart away their goods urgently, and it’s not something the traders are happy about,” Bassey Esin, one of the traders who sell in a lock-up shop, tells UDEME.
The market, which is located in Urue Ofong-Oruko LGA, south of Akwa-Ibom State, Nigeria, is what some traders say is now past its glory days.
However, it was perhaps to ease this situation as well as to improve the state of the market that the late and former lawmaker of the Oron Constituency, Nse Ekpenyong, nominated the contract for the construction of Lock-up Shops and Renovation of the Existing Stalls at the market in 2021 as part of the Zonal Intervention Projects.
According to the budget, the project was under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Labour and also under the agency of the Nigerian Press Council for an amount of Thirty-Three Million Naira (N33,000,000).
While this development bolstered the hopes of traders in the market for a better marketplace to enhance commerce in the facility, that hope still needs to materialise completely to date.
When UDEME recently visited the market, it was observed that only a fraction of the facility was accommodating and that the other parts were either dilapidated or abandoned. It was also observed that the market’s rear is bordered by a thickening bush which some traders say houses snakes and wild animals.
“This project was abandoned”
Some traders in the market, when UDEME visited, expressed their worry.
“Even though I don’t know how much was given, I was around in 2021 when parts of the market were renovated.
“For the renovated stalls, I witnessed that wood and zinc were replaced as well as being repainted. But for it [the project] to be finished… That’s done everywhere. It wasn’t,” a trader at the market, Deaconess Jennie Isaiah Ima, tells UDEME.
Another trader, who craved anonymity for fear of her landlord, shared with UDEME her situation. “Because the roof over my shop wasn’t replaced before the renovation was stopped, I now have to manage this one.”
She also added that owing to the roof’s condition, it now leaks when it rains.
An indigene of the community, who’s also a constituent chairman of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), a youth activist movement, Comrade Anthony Edet Inyang expressed his dissatisfaction with the current state of the market stating explicitly that the project was indeed abandoned.
“This project was abandoned. It was totally abandoned. For instance, our head office building which was helpful then is now collapsed and no longer in use. As far as I can remember, it was last renovated in 1991. Also, if you look at the buildings behind the market, you’d notice nothing was done about them,” he says.
The other hope
Another collective hope traders in the market share is a better marketplace. And for this to become possible, they believe that the government’s urgent intervention would help.
“It would help if all the stalls in the market were reconstructed to standard,” Blessing Nyong, a hairdresser, says.
According to some of the traders, not only does the market require newer or reconstructed stalls, but it also needs a storage place.
“Every market day, I always have to bring my goods from where I live, which is a bit far from the market, and I also take it back home at the end of the day, and it’s always tiring,” Joy Daniel, a trader in the market shares. She adds that providing a store would help solve the problem and hopes that the government will soon aid them.
Another indigene, Comrade Christian Okpunung, chairman of the IYC, also shared the problem of an active toilet facility within the market, a development which he believes has spiked the issue of open defecation within the market vicinity and the surrounding bushes.
“It’s really bad that because of this lack, people can just come around and do as they like,” he says.
Also, there are pledges amongst some of the traders for the reconstruction of the market’s head office to achieve effective administration within the market.
When this reporter tried speaking to the representative that nominated the project, it was learnt the lawmaker died a year ago, leaving the office vacant without replacement.
According to a source who refused to reveal his identity, this is one reason the project was stalled.
There were several attempts to discover the contractor behind the project, but these have yet to be successful. At the market, it was discovered that the project signpost was taken off-site to an unknown location after it was allegedly knocked off by the wind.
A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request sent to the agency (Nigerian Press Council) in late April is yet to be responded to well after the seven-day response window stipulated by the law.
However, a report from the office of the Accountant-General of the Federation made available to the Center for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID), revealed that funds budgeted for Zonal Intervention Projects (ZIPs) in 2021 had been released to the agencies tasked with the implementation of the respective projects.
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