The Return Of Car Dealers

News Introduction: 
Auto dealers are gradually making an inroad into Abuja city centre six years after they were sent packing by the Federal Capital Territory Administration. - By Chris Onokpegu

About seven years after they were sent packing from the Abuja city centre, motor dealers are gradually making a comeback to the city. It is no longer strange to find one or two vehicles on display in the city waiting for a buyer. Joe Ukairo, head of information and outreach programme, Abuja Environmental Protection Board, AEPB, told this magazine that the agency is not unaware of the development and are taking measures to contain it. 
Following the policy of the Mallam Nasiru el-Rufai administration to restore the Abuja master plan, car dealers in the territory were forced to relocate to suburb centres. Most of the dealers are now along Mararaba/Nyanya road, Kubwa/Dei-Dei expressway and Zuba/Kaduna road.
A car dealer, Mallam Dauda Mohammed along Kubwa expressway said the road expansion is affecting the cars on display along the road. “You wash your vehicles three or four times (a day), the rain and the sun affect the colour which makes some of them look older than they really are. Mallam Mohammed said that what they need is a proper place designated as car mart where cars on display will not be affected by the weather.”
A central automotive village was first conceived about eight years ago. A location was mapped out at Dakwa district along Abuja/Suleja road for an automobile village. The village is supposed to house a manufacturing plant to produce structural insulated panels, SIPs, Q-panel and prefabricated steel frame structures. 
Former minister of the territory, Dr. Aliyu Modibbo had promised to construct a befitting automobile mart in the city. The minister said he had mapped out 100 hectares of land, which would be used as a car mart and dry port terminal where containers would offload their cargoes for distribution to the northern states. Five years after, the pledge has remained on the drawing board. The proposed land for Abuja Automotive Village was said to have been converted to an international cattle village because of “the appropriateness of its location.” The present minister, Senator Bala Mohammed has also inaugurated a nine-man committee to look into the problems of car dealers taking over the territory and the Murtala Mohammed expressway. 
The minister has described as unacceptable, turning the expressway into a car mart, which he said has contributed in defacing the environment. The committee is chaired by the chief of staff to the minister, Architect Baba Muhammad-Dadi.
Chairman, Motor Dealers Association, MDA, FCT chapter, Hamza Abdul, said the association has been shown many sites before for an auto village but nothing has been done to but facilities in place so that his members can move in. “This is not the first time a minister is showing us a site. We saw one at Tunga many years back. They also showed us another site at Dei-Dei and this is the third site. We are ready to move in if the environment is conducive for us. Our business is not the type you run in the bush. So they have to clear the site, create access road, provide security before they start asking people to move in.” Abdul said the FCT administration wants the automobile village to be like what is obtainable in developed countries like Japan, but said it is a long term plan. “That is why you find banks, a police station and so on in their auto village. They did not just move in 21 days like the case in Nigeria.” 
This magazine gathered that the proposed village is expected to gulp N127 billion and that car dealers were told to contribute N1 million each for the construction of the project, which will include: banking complex, police station and other facilities. 
The car dealers it is alleged have been given quit notice from their present locations to force them to compile with the company’s demand. This has pitched the dealers against the government who are threatening to pull out of the arrangement. But the executive director, operations, Abuja Auto Complex Limited, Emeka Nzeadi, denied the allegations. He blamed the delay in completing the project on several factors but said the contractors would soon be mobilised to site. Nzeadi claimed that over N100 million has been committed to the project and blamed the uncooperative attitude of the Car Dealers Association towards the project as being responsible for the present situation of the project.
Work on the project, which will be handled by Abuja Investment Company Limited, AICL, Multigrade Group and Home Builds Limited, United Kingdom, is yet to commence. According to the initial agreement, work on the 201 hectares of land would commence 45 days after the signing of memorandum of understanding, MoU, and would be completed in 28 months. Chief press secretary to the minister, Mallam Mohammed Sule, however claimed that the process of providing the market had not been abandoned. He said the process is still on and will soon become a reality.
The failure of successive administrations in the territory to provide a permanent site for car dealers resulted in the gradual return of car dealers to the territory. A car dealer, Gabriel Ohaeri, said he prefers displaying his cars at the city centre because it provides him easy access to customers. Abuja is one of the cities that attract a high number of dealers of imported second-hand cars because of high patronage from middle income earners and businessmen. 
A source in the AEPB told this magazine that this is posing a security challenge as bombs could be planted in such cars by terrorists. The source however, disclosed that the responsibility of enforcing the relocation of car dealers out of the territory has been laid on the transportation secretariat of the Federal Capital Territory Administration, FCTA and by extension, the Directorate of Road Traffic Services, DRTS. Acting public relations officer of DRTS, Emmanuel Okereke said a committee comprising of Department of Development Control, Police, AEPB and the DRTS has been set up to tackle the issue. The work of the committee Okereke maintained include removal of illegal structures, illegal motor parks and car marts, rickety vehicles, unpainted taxis, illegal mechanics workshops, ‘okada’ riders and keke NAPEP who operate within restricted areas.

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