Kanawa Market: Rescuing project in limbo

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Recently, the Kano State government under Dr Abdullahi Ganduje revoked the Kanawa International Market contract. Lawal Sabo Ibrahim rehashes on what led to the present state of the project, reviewing an earlier report and the body language of both the present and former governments of the state.

Kano State Government recently revoked the contract for the construction of the multi billion naira Kanawa International market at Dangwauro on Zaria road in the state capital.

Governor Abdullahi Ganduje disclosed this at a meeting with executives of the state Internal Revenue Service adding that the partner company, Messrs IDIS Limited and their collaborating bank defaulted on the contractual agreement, as a result of which the project remained at foundation level years since it was awarded

He said the company had been ordered to refund the N460 million paid by the government as compensation to the original land owners on which the project was sited, as the State government cannot afford to waste its money, following the lukewarm attitude of the investor.

Ganduje hinted that the State government would soon unveil the next line of action on the cancelled project, noting that the good people of Kano should expect another viable project to yield money to the administration, in view of its dwindling resources.

When the Kano government under Malam Ibrahim Shekarau came up with the idea of an international market at Dangwauro, popularly called ‘the New Singer Market’ in 2008 as partnership project with IDIS Limited on Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) agreement; it was highly hailed for the initiative. But, the N15b project remained on the drawing board over seven years after the displacement of peasant farmers from both their houses and farmlands to make up for the 15,000-hectare land for the project.

The Kanawa International Market as the project is known, is situated about 15 kilometres from the city centre on the Kano-Zaria Road. It is adjacent to Kano’s first overhead bridge that links the Western and Eastern bye-pass.

The project was aimed at providing an alternative to the famous Singer market which takes care of the basic household needs of not only Kano nay Northern Nigeria, but even neighbouring countries of Niger, Cameroun, Chad, and so on. This is why, it (Singer Market) is seen as one of the major sources of traffic congestion in the city, due to the number of trucks and other lighter vehicles that come into town to deliver and take goods on a daily basis.

The Kanawa International market project was also designed to accommodate Police and Filling Stations, banks, Fire Service point, as well as a large motor park, where large trucks coming to the ancient city are expected to terminate their journey by discharging their goods, from where it will be conveyed by light trucks to the famous markets in the city, like the Kwari Textile Market; Abubakar Rimi Market; Singer Household Essentials Market and other adjoining markets within the city centre.

Also, apart from the proposed hundreds of lock-up shops and stalls, the market was designed to have warehouses where dealers will be receiving and keeping goods from the ports. Thus, sub-dealers need not go into town to receive goods because they only needed to go there to make their payments and go to the warehouses with their payment receipts to pick their goods.

Thus, the project was envisaged to not only improve the economic fortunes of the state to live up to its billings as a commercial nerve centre north of the Niger, but also to create additional employment opportunities for the large army of unemployed youths roaming the streets of the metropolis on a daily basis.

Likewise, the project was also expected to help in transforming Kano to a mega city, which will further boost business activities, as well as attract more visitors from especially the ECOWAS sub-region, particularly the business community, who will at the close of the day, contribute immensely to the economic development of not only the state, but the nation at large.

But, all the foregoing and more, were just fizzling out as mere ‘castles in the moon,’ especially to the expected beneficiaries as the market site remains fallow; with only project office and the scanty roads as the only signs of the proposed market. Thus, the recent intervention by the government of Dr Abdullahi Ganduje came at a time most needed.

Though there were minor protests from the former land owners in the area, Peoples Daily Weekend gathered from major stakeholders that the State Government had compensated all the peasant farmers from whom the vast land was acquired but surprisingly, to date, only negligible network of roads within the complex has been constructed at an estimated cost of about N1billion! Even that, is losing the battle to erosion.

After being abandoned for about seven years by the past administrations, allegedly due to the failure of the defunct Oceanic Bank to finance the project as per plan, the site became a victim of erosion, and its substantial area becoming not a sight to behold, while the table land has already been overgrown by weeds.

Also, it was reliably gathered that Oceanic bank at the 11th hour reneged from its sponsorship of the multi-billion project. This, according to sources, was a follow up on the financial crisis that rocked the bank, leading to its distress and the eventual sack of its former Managing Director, Mrs Cecelia Ibru.

Shortly thereafter, it was learnt from sources close to the First Bank of Nigeria that the bank started negotiations with major stakeholders of the Kanawa project, with the aim of taking over the sponsorship of the International market, but to date nothing was happening there.

Contacted when he was in office, the former state commissioner of Commerce, Industries, Cooperatives and Tourism, Dr Danburam Abubakar Nuhu Yakasai, dismissed the impression as baseless and untrue. According to him, it was not the responsibility of the State Government to invest in the project, explaining that there was a private partner company that was to invest and develop the market.

The former Commissioner also disclosed that all he knew was that arrangements had reached an advanced stage towards signing an agreement, pointing out that it was a privately-owned project, based on Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT).

“It is supposed to be on that basis and there is a company which is the co-investor in this project. It is their responsibility to construct the building and own it, which means to operate it and there is an agreement as to how long they will operate it before transferring it to government. This is the basis for which Kanawa project is all about,” he had said.

Highlighting the original concept, the Commissioner explained that the state government was supposed to provide the land, which it had, adding that government compensated those it acquired the land from, alongside people who own buildings in the area.

“The land owners have since been compensated, as their acres of land have been acquired and handed over to the company that will construct the Kanawa project. The entire idea is for the company to source funds on its own to construct and operate the Kanawa project. Operating means to generate whatever they invested and then transfer it back to us,” the commissioner said.

Furthermore, Yakasai explained that since the administration of Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso came on board he had dialogued with the company involved in the Kanawa project.

He stressed that the Kano State Government is quite interested in the project, especially with what he has been witnessing, as the ancient city is daily becoming congested, which is causing a lot of discomfort, especially when one goes to the market.

“You can hardly go to the market, do your shopping and come out without some form of discomfort, as the entire environment is littered with refuse, which constitutes an embarrassment, due to the environmental hazard and pollution that we are having within the state.

“There are also the security challenges, because if you don’t have access to places, hardly can you make meaningful contribution in terms of security. For example, when there is any incident of fire, there will be no room to combat it, although we are not expecting that to happen; however, we are not folding our arms and waiting for the Kanawa project to come on stream,” the commissioner stressed then.

The immediate-past government of Kwankwaso constituted a committee, charged with the responsibility of reviewing the reforms and costs of the Kanawa market project and how it will impact on the key areas of the economy.

Also, the committee was to adopt measures to decongest markets in the ancient city, pointing out that already, the State government was exploring the possibility of relocating some of the major markets, as well as creating parking spaces and access roads in the markets.

“We are also taking a look at Kantin Kwari Market and how to decongest it. We have listened to the suggestions of the Market leadership; we are also looking at Singer and Sabon Gari markets, as well as Yankaba, where vegetable and fruits are sold. We are doing a lot to improve these various markets,” Yakasai said. But unfortunately, up to the time they left office no such improvements were made on the markets.

The former Commissioner asserted that the Kwankwaso administration did not abandon the Kanawa International market project, adding that very soon construction of the market will be flagged off, but up to the time the government left the scene nothing happened on the project site.

When contacted that time, president of the Kanawa Investment Company, Alhaji Abubakar Nagona, hinted that discussions were in progress with major stakeholders and expressed optimism that when the project comes on stream, it would to a large extent, enhance economic and commercial activities in the state.

Nagona, who heads the Kanawa Investment Company, the conglomerate under which the construction firm handling the multi-billion naira market project is, noted that, “recent government policies on the economy have helped in boosting confidence among international investment partners, thereby enhancing the chances of doing business in the country.”

He insisted that as far as he was concerned, the project will resume, adding that it is a risk worth taking as it will add to the transformation of Kano city to a business hub south of the Sahara, where all categories of businessmen will converge daily, for business transactions.

Thus, with the present efforts by Governor Abdullahi Ganduje, the good people of Kano and indeed Nigerians are waiting and watching to see what the government’s final decision on the project would be. But, looking at the relevance of the initial plan, people best wish to see when the Kanawa International Market project will resume in earnest.

 

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