Some traders in the popular Suleja Modern Market in Niger State have alleged extortion by the Local Government Chairman, Abdullahi Shuaibu Maje.
The traders explained that, in 2018, some newly constructed shops were leased to them by the local council for 10 years at the rate of N3 million.
But, according to them, the Local Government Chairman, Maje whose tenure elapses in less than a year, is reneging on the lease agreement he had with the people, vowing to demolish the shops and make the lessee renew the payments.
Officially referred to as IBB Market, it is rated as one of the busiest markets in the entire North-Central states.
The facility which was built by the state government under the administration of Colonel Lawal Gwadabe was inaugurated by then-President Ibrahim Babangida in 1991 and later transferred to the Suleja council authority.
One of her traders said, ”I'm a shop owner in Suleja local government area, before now, there were some shops outside the IBB market where some chicken traders sold their wares. The local government chairman asked the chicken sellers to leave the place, saying he was going to build some shops there and they complied.
”He built the shops and called on individuals who were interested to buy from the local government and that after 10 years, the people who bought the shops would renew their payments again. Some of us bought the shops at N3 million from the local government.
”We bought the shops in 2018 and now the chairman has 7 months or one year to go. He has realised that his tenure is almost over, he then came up with a plan that he would demolish our shops again and after demolishing the shops, he would now build another row of shops but it'd be a storey building. For those of us who are using the place already, we will have to pay again but we will be downstairs. In this case, we'll pay N4 million while those who'll be upstairs will pay N3.5 million.
”We tried to speak to the chairman and explain to him that with the economic situation of the country, we will not be able to afford it. We told him that most of us obtained loans to buy the shops and we have not even finished paying the loans but he refused. He said if we don't have money to pay, we should better vacate. He has given us just a month's notice, after this, he will start demolishing the shops.
“These shops are over 30 in number. We initially went to court but the chairman convinced us to withdraw it from the court so we could settle it amicably. After we withdrew the case, the chairman went on social media to announce that he won the case. Just imagine, the man has just less than 7 months left in office, he wants to just collect money from us and go with it.
“Maje said after we pay this N4 million, we will not pay again in the next 20 years, how certain are we that the next local government chairman will not revoke this agreement? Very soon, they will start campaigning for elections and another person will come in.
“This man has been extorting money from traders; anytime he needs money, he focuses his attention here. Suleja market under this local government chairman has lost its glory, investors no longer come here.
“Suleja market is the commercial centre of Niger State. Niger State without Suleja Local Government Area is nothing, this man is frustrating investors and discouraging them from coming to Suleja. He uses thugs and the task force to Extort money from people using vehicles to bring in goods. He's done with those and now focused his attention on us.”