It is Tuesday, 8 August 2023. This particular day is not sunny. The drizzling rain and cloudy skies that marks August had already set in. It has been a wet day. The heavens had cried at intervals like a troubled child-raining down tears that flooded the drainages in Kano Park and Market Maiduguri.
The Park bustled, and over time the tires of commuters had created potholes that formed pools of dirty water when it rained. The Market has become a harbour for chaps hooked on narcotics.
It was already 1 p.m., and Baba Magaji had yet to make a dime from the daily haulage services he renders. In moments like this, when activities that made the palms caress naira notes are far from reach, Baba Magaji sits on a bench in front of their union office and fiddles with his phone.
“I was around when this Park and Market was opened; I can confidently tell you that since the insurgency period, business around here has not been the same; this was a park and market that provided international trading and transport services,“ said Baba Magaji.
Baba, a slightly chubby 60-year-old, tall and dark in complexion, had spent more than 29 years working in the Park; he believes the Park and Market have lost their glory.
The lives of Baba and his labourers, with some store owners still selling, continue to teeter as they watch the Park harbour fewer and fewer business activities before their eyes. The Park and Market need more basic social amenities that thrive on livelihoods and businesses.
The once-famous Kano Park and Market had standard open and lockup shops, a road network, drainages, parking slabs, fire service, and fuel filling stations.
The Park had a section for buses, trucks, trailers and other small cars. The Market behind the Park has had about 272 unoccupied stores for over 15 years. However, about 15 warehouses are still functional as trailers usually offload and load goods from the warehouses.
The Kano Park and Market, created 30 years ago, served as a park and market for traders and travellers from different parts of the country and neighbouring countries like Chad, Niger, and Cameroon.
The Park provided an all-in-one centre for trading, travelling and leisure. Other big names in the Transport business, like G.U.O., Young Shall Grow, now have dormant offices.
In August 2023, this reporter observed that the original development plan was reasonably maintained, while some structures have worn out. The last attempt made to fix the Park and Market was In 1994 when the Borno State Government acquired a loan from the World Bank under the Infrastructural Development Funds (I.D.F.).
In the 2022 budget of the Borno State Government, about N150.5 million had been approved to execute different projects in Kano Park and Market. Some of the projects include 1. Rehabilitation of 308 Market Stalls /Repairs Office Block Building. 2. Drilling of Borehole@ Park 3. Construction / Provision of Roads/Drainage 4. Purchase of office furniture and fittings 5. Purchase of one (1) Electronic Scanner for Heavy Duty Vehicle 6. Purchase of one (1) 250 kva Generator 7. Electrification of the Parks 8. Purchase of CCTV camera.
Up until August 2023, the projects have yet to be executed.
Plea for intervention
Kano Park and Market business owners have experienced their high and low moments. Since the insurgency began in 2009, they never recovered despite the military response that gradually restored peace to Maiduguri. Only three stores operated when this reporter visited the Market in August 2023. However, the Park is still functioning.
Emmanuel Stanley, who still operates a cargo delivery service, said, ”Luxurious buses used to come to this Park, but now they have been forced out of business.”
Mr Stanley recalled how other luxurious buses from different transport companies used the Park.
“Today you can only break your journey to some major cities in the eastern part of Nigeria, unlike before where you can get direct buses to major cities”, said Mr Stanley.
The secretary of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) Maiduguri Kano Park branch, Ibrahim Adam Shuwa, pleaded with the State Government to look into the issues affecting the Park, aside from the lack of roads, water and proper sanitation.
He suggested ways of reforming the Park.
“If the state government can help enforce the law establishing the park and market and make the necessary renovations and construction, I am certain that it will revive the park and market”, he said.
”We have been patient and law-abiding; we are confined in this space to conduct business, but others are thwarting our effort outside,” said Auwal Mohammed.
He is a member of the Road Transport Employer Association of Nigeria (RTEAN) Kano Park Maiduguri, who lamented how other illegal parks could operate at significant junctions within Maiduguri Metropolis.
“These illegal parks sometimes operate with the help of men from the Borno Traffic Management Agency (BOTMA)”, he said. ”Sometimes we get complaints of forgotten luggage, theft and missing person cases, even from people who do not patronize the Park because they travel with unidentified vehicles outside the Park. Still, when something terrible happens, they rush to this Park to make their enquiry which usually ends up fruitless because we need their detail,” he added.
Abdullahi Musa, the secretary National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) Kano Park and Market branch, corroborated Mr Mohammed’s statement on illegal parks.
”We want the Borno State Government to enforce the law and get rid of the illicit gardens that are springing up in specific locations within Maiduguri Metropolis; for instance, go to West end area, Post Office area and Legacy area, we also receive several complaints, those parks drop off and take off without proper records, you see we take records, we have details of every passenger travelling through this park, it becomes easier to track and report any case that arises”, Mr Musa told this reporter.
In other to effectively manage the Park and Market, the Kano Park and Market Authority was promulgated by law in 1999 by the Borno State Government to address the Park and Market jointly.
In April 1999, the enabling mandate was signed into law.
The order, captioned “Maiduguri Kano Park and Market Edict No:1 of 1999”, gave the facility full legal backing to direct all vehicles originating along its catchment routes (Kano-Jos road and Damboa- Biu road) to terminate at the park premises.
The Kano Park and Market Authority still functions, with nine seconded staff from various ministries in the state, including General Manager and 12 auxiliary staff made up of security men, cleaners and messengers.
The office is located within the premises of the Park and Market area. However, this reporter observed that the building is a shadow of itself, the fence holding the entrance gate had collapsed, the glass in the windows and doors is no more, some are patched with cartoons while others only have metal frames.
The paint on the walls is faded, and only two pieces of old furniture are in the manager’s office. A messenger who works in the office has no chair; he sits on an old table. The entire building yearns for renovation.
Den of illicit activities
While the Park struggles to survive, the Market has not been functioning for over 15 years. Some stores have collapsed, and others were rented out as accommodation.
Idris Dankaka, a 25-year-old orange seller, told this reporter that the shops are usually rented out to some travellers who may be stranded, while others are rented for a month or a year, as the case may be. “I stay here, and we pay monthly, myself and three others,” he said.
This reporter observed that some young boys were trading; they either hawk or engage in menial jobs. The left wing of the Market had wheelbarrows used to hawk or pack luggage, and a large chunk of scrap and empty water bottles, usually sold to be recycled, could be seen kept close to the dilapidated open stores.
Unlike Idris Dankaka, who sells oranges in the day and returns to the Market in the evening to rest, others who reside around the market area mainly in the evening are usually buried in alcoholic drinks and narcotics. More than 70% of them are young girls and boys.
Balami Anjili, a 32-year-old teacher found himself in the Market when his two-room building collapsed in March 2023; he had to look for cheap rent to save and rebuild his house.
“I was surprised when I noticed that some of the stores were occupied by young girls who either ran from home or had no home to stay, some of them as young as 16-19 years old, engaging in prostitution, and I kept wondering if they have parents”, said Mr Anjili.
Zainab Abdullahi, a 28-year-old lady whose husband was kidnapped by Boko Haram insurgents on the Damaturu-Maiduguri express road six years ago, spoke to this reporter.
Ms Abdullahi, who has one daughter from her marriage, finds solace in alcohol and tobacco. “I strongly believe my husband is not dead; one day, he will come back; I have been in two other relationships in an attempt to get married, but it didn’t work out,” she said.
She puffed smoke from a cigarette hanging between her slim fingers. She argued that she doesn’t engage in prostitution, unlike some of her friends; she has a family and only spends the night with female friends who reside in the Market when it’s late for her to go home.
The Kano Park and Market is not only known as an area where young lads frolic in booze and ecstasy, but men of the underworld use the Park.
In July 2023, the Borno State Police Command paraded 78 suspects for murder, burglary, and stealing handsets. The suspects were arrested in 14 communities, in the Maiduguri Metropolitan Council (MMC) and Jere Local Council of the state; some were from Kano motor park and Market.
Similarly, in April 2022, The Borno State police command paraded a 28-year-old man arrested while trying to transport a large cache of ammunition out of Maiduguri from the Kano Park and Market.
Meanwhile, at the Kano Park and Market gates are personnel who collect revenues from each vehicle.
The Park and Market have three entrances, two at the front for entering and exiting, and the third at the back close to the market side. The revenue receipt is a remita receipt already printed and given to the personnel with each vehicle a stipulated amount. Although truck drivers pay a thousand naira when entering Maiduguri town, they still pay N300 when entering the Park.
In contrast, buses pay N200, Taxis N100, and giant tricycles, popularly called ‘Jega’, pay N50 while the ‘Keke’ tricycles pay N20. Each entrance must be paid, no matter how many times a commuter frequents the Park daily.
According to a revenue collector in the Park who wishes to remain anonymous and who was posted at the entrance gate to collect revenue, “I take back about N8,000 to N10,000 daily for payment, however when fuel was still affordable, we make close to N15,000 to N17,000 other gates may get less since they’re hardly frequented like this entrance gate.”
Similarly, a member of the RTEAN, Auwal Mohammed, told this reporter that despite the illegal parks outside that deprive this Park of generating more revenue, and the hike in fuel price, about 20-25 vehicles still load to different locations across the country. ”It used to be a hundred and more before now, we hope it gets better,” Mr Mohammed added.
At the luxurious buses park close to the Market, the few shops still operating also pay their tax.
According to Anna, popularly called Mummy, who sells soft drinks and other consumables, “tax collectors usually come in, and I pay, I still have a few copies of receipt from the previous payment I made, business has not been good ever since the luxurious buses stop coming, but we are managing to hope for the better,” Anna added.
Usman Kabir, an artisan who repairs and makes shoes, also attests to paying taxes. Mr Kabir pleaded as a shop owner for government to make the place attractive to more people.
In July 2023, a Freedom of Information Act (F.O.I.) letter to the Borno State Ministry of Finance was written to ascertain if the budgeted money had been released for the said projects in the Park and Market.
Despite acknowledging the letter, there has yet to be a reply from the ministry as of the time of filing this report.
In the 2023 budget approved by the State Government, N30.2 million was also approved for similar projects in the Park.
Meanwhile, the Park and Market General Manager (who did not give her name) refused to reply to an F.O.I. letter, as she claimed she was appointed recently and cannot comment on the matter.
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