Written by Ismail Adebayo
At the Karmo market, the only item not available for purchase every Tuesday and at cheap prices, according to John Chibuzor, a trader there, are “human parts”.
Of course, Chibuzor’s statement was morbidly hyperbolic, but his resort to such a term underlines the commercial appeal, in terms of variety of goods and pricing, and the dense traffic of both traders and consumers, that the Karmo market flaunts every Tuesday, which is the weekly market day. The market day has a repeat every Friday, but obviously with a lesser appeal.
Karmo market is located in a village of the same name in the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) in the Federal Capital Territory. As Mr Michael Ifemenam, chairman of the Karmo Traders’ Association narrated to Sunday Trust last week, the market’s history spanned more than 25 years. It originally served as the market of the settlers in the Karmo community who traded mostly in agricultural produce, foodstuffs and fruits.
But as the population in the Federal Capital Territory grew and traders of a wider vision from far and wide made a bigger commercial centre of the Karmo market, its fame spread. So from that humble beginning of a rural setting where only baskets and bowls of agricultural produce were traded, Karmo market has blossomed over the years into a beehive of commerce where various item ranging from clothings (new and second-hand), tailoring materials, electronics, shoes, bags, drums of palm & groundnut oils and foodstuffs to furniture and furnishings can be purchased, in both wholesale and retail forms.
The trading crowd and activities at the Karmo market every Tuesday result in a long hold-up of vehicular traffic, which can stretch about half a kilometre from the market to the Life Camp junction, from morning till evening. Ibrahim Zacchariah and Husseini Haruna, both of who sell new lace materials at the market on the Tuesday market day told this publication that the market attracts such a huge crowd of buyers every Tuesday because prices of goods are much cheaper there than are obtainable elsewhere. A bundle of lace material which, for instance, sells in markets like Wuse and Utako for between N3000-N4000 doesn’t go for higher than N2,500 at the Karmo market on the Tuesday.
Two young customers, Gift and Chigozie who described themselves as students of Gwarimpa Secondary School said the Karmo market is their favourite shopping centre for their needs, especially clothings and bags because “the prices here are affordable”.
Just as buyers come from long distances to purchase items at the market, the traders, too, cover long distances to ply their wares, sure of enough patronage to make their day. Muhammadu Sani sells “ordinary” hoes and cutlasses, but he comes all the way from Sabo ‘n’ Wuse in Kaduna every Tuesday to sell at the Karmo market. Sani told Sunday Trust that sometimes he sells about 20 units of his wares for N100-N200 each; on luckier days, he sells a lot more. If Sani has been a regular trader every week at Karmo market for 10 years, as he claimed, the business must, indeed, be relatively lucrative for him.
Chairman of the Palm Oil Dealers Association in the market, Christian Nwachukwu enthused that the market is one numerous consumers, indeed, love to patronize in large numbers. Nwachukwu asserted: “They come here because they believe they can get their needs here at lower prices, compared to other prices in markets in Abuja and even beyond. Many people come here from Suleja, Gwagwalada, Abaji and other places to buy things like red oil, groundnut and banana.” He disclosed that many of the traders themselves travel far distances to bring their products to Karmo market to sell. “They bring bananas here from Edo State and other things from Kwara. That is why you can get many things here in large quantities and at cheaper rates to buy,” he said.
Thriving as the Karmo market is though, the traders do their business in constant fear of demolition of their stalls and shops and destruction of their goods by AMAC officials. Many of the traders narrated their sad experiences in the hands of the officials who, they lamented, occasionally pounce unannounced on them, destroying everything in sight. Ifemenam recalled how the AMAC officials, armed policemen in tow, suddenly arrived one day when the palm oil dealers just brought in their goods worth millions of naira, and destroyed everything.
Nwachukwu, whose members were terribly demoralized by that huge loss, appealed to the AMAC authorities by organizing the market properly or giving them a big permanent site where AMAC officials would no longer be “terrorizing” them. “Our union pays N25,000 every year to them and they come around every market day to collect N50 from every trader, so they should help us to put the market in proper shape,” he said.
Ifemenam explained further that every trader at the market registers his shop with N15,000, renews his certificate every year with N5,000 and pays another N5,000 as revenue per shop every year. “Any time they come we pay them because that was the order. But we are still being disturbed by AMAC,” he cried out.
According to the traders’ boss, there had been a series of meetings between the merchants and the AMAC authorities on how to resettle the former on a permanent site. But nothing has been achieved. Ifemenam said AMAC once talked of relocating the traders to a small area in a village a bit away from Karmo. But the formalities of ownership of the site was said not to have been perfected and so the traders weren’t assured of a trouble-free stay there.
Moreover, Ifemenam said, the Akimi of Idu, the traditional ruler of the Idu community who supervises the chief of the Karmo community, was said to have insisted that the proposed site must be fenced round and some facilities provided to ensure the safety and comfort of the traders and their goods before they can be relocated there. All these are yet to be done.
The traders appealed to the AMAC authorities to provide them a permanent site quickly so, they said, they can continue to serve the public in a clement business atmosphere devoid of fear of destruction, demolition and losses.
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