by Tony Tamuno
Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, has promised to renovate damaged stalls of the Port Harcourt new layout market gutted by fire Tuesday night.
Amaechi made the promise when he went to assess damaged shops and facilities at the market on Thursday, accompanied by State Executive council members and the Caretaker Chairman of Port Harcourt City Local Government Council, Nnamdi Nwuche.
Addressing traders at the market, the governor also promised to give financial assistance to those whose goods were gutted by the fire to enable them get back to business.
“We will send Commissioner for Special Duties and Commissioner for Commerce to come and get us the names of those whose goods were destroyed and government will give you some assistance to replace your goods. Government will also rebuild these shops the way they were”, he said.
Amaechi said although the stalls were not to be used as lock-up shops, traders at the market went ahead and used them as lock-up stores and housed in the stores wood and other inflammable materials. He further promised to get a private firm to manage and run the market.
“When we built these stores, we did not ask you to do these ones as lock-up. We built it as open stores. The essence is when you finish, you carry your goods home. Now, anybody who had this is supposed to only have an open space where he or she will sell and take his or her wares back home, the next day, you come back, so I don’t see why you put all those woods.
“It is that wood that must have led to this fire and one man’s wood has now burnt everybody’s properties. You now agree that you cannot manage your market, both you and local government, so, I will come in. I will appoint a company that will manage this market. They will tax you every month. It’s simple because let me tell you why, no water here, I put water here before. I put water, now no water because you allow thieves to come here and vandalize it. I put a generator here. I put water hose for fire, all of them have been vandalized, so you are not managing well. We would get a company that will manage here, replace all those things and you people will pay small money to them for the running of the market. I need your vote but I also need you to run things properly.
“Now when we say to you that we will appoint a private company that will manage the market and when we say they will tax you, we know that most of you who are selling here are poor, so we are not here to take your money. When we say they will tax you is not to tax you and give government. What they will tax you for is for them to be able to maintain this place. You need to maintain your toilet, you need to clean your toilet every day, you need to have water here every day, you need to have your generator on in case there is no light and that is what the company will do. The tax they will tax you will not be too high, it will just be to run this market. They will not give me the money, I don’t want the money. If that company was in place, nobody would put wood here because they will tell them, you cannot put wood, you signed a contract for this shop, that’s what it is. But because there was nobody to manage it, people were able to put their woods up and down and destroy other people’s goods. I repeat I want your vote but I also need to run a government”.
Amaechi warned traders at the market not to use private power generator sets and avoid using any inflammable material in their stores.
Mayor of Port Harcourt City Council, Nwuche praised Amaechi for the on-the-spot assessment of the market.
He said: “Governor Amaechi is the people’s governor and everybody is happy he came. They don’t even want him to leave. They want him to still talk to them. That is what good governance is all about”.
Nwuche said his council would work together with any company appointed by the governor to run and manage the new layout market.