From Gyang Bere, Jos
In the last one week, there has been some disquiet in Jos, Plateau State, over alleged moves by the state government to cede the proprietorship of the burnt Jos Main Market to Jaiz Bank.
The deal, whose memorandum of understanding (MoU) was billed to be signed this week, would commit the bank to reconstruct the market, situated in the heart of Jos, and operate it for a period of 40 years.
The market, reputed as one of the largest indoor markets in West Africa, was constructed in 1975 by the Joseph Deshi Geomwalk military government of old Benue-Plateau State. It was razed in 2002 following a twin bomb blast that gutted most of the shops.
Government said it had gone round in search of investors, with no success, until Jaiz Bank indicated interest with an offer. However, as persuasive as the deal from Jaiz Bank may appear, the majority in the predominately Christian state are opposed to it.
They have vowed to take every legitimate step to halt further talks by the state government. They fear that the venture was an Islamic agenda to indirectly take over the economy of the state, at least, for the next 40 years.
State chairman, Youth Wing of the Christian Association of Nigeria (YOWICAN), Plateau State, Markus Kanda, said: “The state government is out to mortgage the future of present and future generations of Plateau State to an Islamic bank.
“The leadership of Governor Simon Bako Lalong was reportedly making concerted efforts to seek foreign partnerships and/sponsorship for the rebuilding of the Jos Main Market engaging in several foreign trips.
“In the recent times, information has it that there has been what can be said to be an almost consummated joint venture for the reconstruction of the market after the demolition exercise that took place in 2022.
“The demolition gulped about N1 billion. The government described the feat as the most difficult phase in the process of rebuilding the market.
“Government should discontinue any further engagement with Jaiz Bank towards the reconstruction of the burnt Jos Main Market. It should rather concentrate on completing on going projects, particularly the Legacy Project that has gulped billions of naira, but abandoned in the last three years.
“If the document purported to be the Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) supposedly vetted by the Plateau State Ministry of Justice that has recently been in circulation on the social media is anything to go by, we are now more than ever before in a position not to trust this government on whatever plans they might present to us as the content of the document.
“A careful analysis of the said JVA will show that there are not only loopholes capable of being exploited by Jaiz Bank, there are also clauses revealing that Jaiz Bank will take 60 per cent of the shops. These it shall sell to recover its money while government will settle for 40 per cent of the shops. These will also be shared between Jaiz Bank and the government to raise its interest.
“This implies that of the about 4,321 shops to be built, Jaiz Bank will take about 2,593 shops. It will then share with government in its 1,728 shops. This means Jaiz Bank can access up to 3,457 shops, leaving government with about 864 shops. And this is to last 40 years.”
State chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev. Polycarp Lubo, denied claims by government that it consulted with him on the deal with Jaiz Bank: “Government should suspend further discussions with the bank until it has properly engaged the critical stakeholders, including indigenous youths.
Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Chrysanthus Ahmadu, said government has no plan to cede the market to Jaiz Bank for 40 years: “We have the opportunity to lay the facts because the people now have the opportunity to the facts. Lots of positions taken were based on misinformation that government was ceding the market for 40 years to Jaiz Bank. There is nothing like that.
“The agreement is, whoever takes over the shops will be granted 40-year license to operate the shops by the Jos Main Market Authority (JMMA). At the end of 40 years, the shops will be taken over by the JMMA.
“It is not Jaiz Bank that is to be given the shops for 40 years, it is the buyer. It is anybody who has the interest that the shop will be sold to that person for 40 years. We negotiated that allottees should be given 40 years so that they will be able to recoup their money.
“Government had not concluded the negotiation with Jaiz Bank before the information was leaked on the social media. This eventually misled the people.”
But while the debate was still on, member representing Jos South/Jos East Federal Constituency, Dachung Musa Bagos, secured a court injunction restraining the state government from signing any agreement with Jaiz Bank on the proposed deal.
The injunction was granted on Tuesday, August 2, 2022, by Justice S.P. Gang. It restrained the governor, the government and the Attorney-General and Commissioner of Justice from signing any MoU with Jaiz Bank, pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.
Branch manager, Jaiz Bank, Jos, Kabiru Bello, could not be reached for his reaction yesterday. He did not answer phone calls and did not respond to a text message sent to him at the time of this report.