The Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) on Friday, sealed up the Garki International Market in Abuja over accumulated refuse dumps that might cause an epidemic outbreak.
The Director AEPB, Mr Osi Braimah, condemned the break down of law and order in the market.
“Our environmental officers in carrying out their routine/monitoring activities by April 26, discovered that the market was in a bad shape.
“Solid wastes, cabbages all over the place, bleeding sewage lines and heaps of refuse dumps were all over the market.
“We served them an abatement notice unfortunately nothing was done,” Braimah said.
The director noted that the non challant attitude of the market users made the board to seek a court order to seal the market.
“So, we simply went to the court for an order to seal up the market, so that everything can stop, until it is cleaned up.
“We derive no joy in shutting down the market but we will be failing in our responsibilities if we allow them to continue.
“As it is now, if we allow them to operate, it is a recipe for epidemic outbreak,” he worrie.
The director frowned at the deplorable state of the market saying, “they cannot have these activities side by side with filth”.
“A market is where fresh foods and vegetables are sold, you cannot have all these side by side with cabbages
“An epidemic is far worst than not selling your potatoes for a couple of days.
“Once they clean up the market we will reopen because the court order says the order subsists, so long the market remains in that condition,” Braimah noted.
He warned that the market remained shut until the wastes were evacuated.
Braimah promised that AEPB would go back to the court to seek for an order to reopen it as soon as the wastes are evacuated.
He urged market operators to tidy up their wastes to avert epidemic outbreak in the Federal Capital Territory.
Commenting on the seal up of the market, Mr Desmond Arebenjamo Chairman of Fruits and Vegetables in Garki International Market, said that they received calls that the market had been sealed up by the AEPB.
“We pleaded that many of us are selling perishable items and have purchased them in large quantities fearing loss.
“We learnt that some of the unions in the market took the market management to court over increased service charge,” Arebenjamo said.
He said that the fellow traders told him that the court ordered that everyone observe the old rate of the service charge pending the outcome of the court judgment.
Arebenjamo, who said that they had not been officially notified on how to resolve the issue, appealed for the quick reopening of the market.
Also, Mrs Nwokoema Joyce, who owned a shop in the market for over five years, said that there was an increase in the service charge.
“I remembered that there was an increase in the service charge in which a lot of people disputed.
“There was a platform that said we should hold on with the payment and that they were discussing with the management later on we heard that if we don’t pay, the market will be sealed up.
Mr Innocent Amaechina, Head, Corporate Affairs/Business Development Abuja Markets Management Limited (AMML), said that the market was sealed up following the court order obtained by AEPB on the evacuation of wastes.
“It came to the notice of AEPB during one of their routine exercise that the whole place is littered with refuse dumps and of course you will agree with me that it’s now a public health issue.
“Many court orders on abatement notice was served. Before now AEPB gave notice to abate nuisance, it was not done.
Amaechina noted that, Garki International Market is managed by AMML.
“It came about that some traders went to court to challenge the increase in service charge we proposed.
“It is regrettable that none of the market officials have engaged us on the increased service charge, we just needed to serve them better.
“For instance if you want your diesel to run for 10 hours instead of five hours you are going to pay higher,” he said.
Amaechina said that as law abiding organisation they had to restrain themselves.
“if they are in court invariably they are saying we should not enforce the collection of service charge hence the service providers withdrew their services.
Amaechina said that although, “while the matter has been in court some officials of the market have continued to engage them.
“The meeting is being held right away to meet on a middle ground, to address all the infractions being raised by AEPB.
“We are addressing the problems raised by AEPB and let’s say in some hours we would have reached an agreement and the market would be reopened,” he assured.
The refuse dumps had gathered there for three weeks to one month ever since the service providers withdrew their services.
As at press time the manager of the Garki International Market was still in the meeting with relevant stakeholders to address the issues.
All the traders attested that this was the first seal up of its kind and worried over the condition of their perishable items.