In the last two weeks, I have gone to the Terminus area about three times or even more. For those who do not know Jos, this area is what you can refer to as the ‘Central Business Area of the city. The business activities that take place here are alarming; as they tell of the potentials that abound in the state.
On a daily basis, the human traffic can be annoying and frustrating; except if you are imbued with a modicum of patience. In this season you can only have yourself to blame if you find yourself there. However, it is unavoidable given the times that we are in now.
Indeed, this is the season to buy things; and therefore if you must be within that vicinity, all you need is a measure of patience. I have been going to observe for myself the mad rush by people from different areas in the state and outside to get things for the yuletide.
The visits gave me the opportunity to witness firsthand what we in (Plateau) have missed over the years since that first-class market went up in flames in 2002. It is now 17 years down the line; one can only imagine the damage the state’s economy would have been had the enemy not visited the state that year.
Over the years, one government after another had made promises regarding the need and desirability of bringing it back to life; even if it meant going into a private partnership arrangement. It does appear we are in for a long wait before it gets off the ground. It is important that the state government gives the idea another thought, so that we can reap from the market revenues that accrue to Plateau.
For the purpose of this material, we may not dwell so much on why the main market has not been rebuilt. It is a topic for another day. For our purposes, we are concentrating on the sign of the times and why the state has missed so much revenue from the traders. The lamentation is to avoid, for me, certain regrets; but hopefully to point out a number of things that are needed to return the state to profitability.
We are in dire need of our thoughts to be concentrated on ways that the revenue profile can be projected and raised. It is reason the Plateau State Inland Revenue Service has up its ante in the generation of revenue for the development of the state. I am aware that there are some grey areas that are needed to facilitate the involvement of all of the state in the initiative.
All over the world, an initiative such as the one above has assisted in no mean measure in helping countries or states find their grounds in not relying on federation allocation. As a result of our feeding bottle federalism, states in Nigeria have continued to think that they do not have any other obligation other than to wait for Abuja to dish money to them. They hardly grow to think outside the box; however, some have since caught the bug of prudent revenue generation and are raking in more than they get from the center.
All governments are devising ways and means on how their states can raise their revenue profiles; and it is reason why in the last couple of years they have devised generating more money from sources hitherto not thought of as important to the state.
More states are today falling over each other in order to out-do one another in generating money for development purposes; and that is why their Revenue Inland Services are made to think outside the box. In this regard, there are no spaces left for such purpose, even as more efforts are deployed towards this initiative. More states are the better for this initiative.
Talking about more revenue for states, but particularly Plateau State, an area that has continued to be ignored albeit to our disadvantage is the open space trading that goes on every Sunday. Before that, let’s take a look at the Terminus area where traders have treated government orders with levity.
Most of the traders behave as if there is no authority that can take them to task over their activities. In another words, they are saying ‘if you can, do what you can, if you can’. Sad to reiterate the fact that it has been a cat and mouse relationship between the authorities and the traders; and no one is sure if they will vacate the occupied spaces.
They have asked the authorities to provide them alternatives. That is not to say government can’t ask the traders to leave the occupied spaces. The authority to allow rests with government to allocate those spaces. But the treatment of government orders smacks of arrogance and disrespect for the state government.
There are no spaces left even for buyers on almost all the streets adjoining the Terminus area. The traders are given to all manners of tactics to avoid lawful eviction from trading on the streets. Drive them away by 7 am, and they are back in less than two hours cursing and reining all manners of abuses on those who are carrying out the orders.
On most occasions, the curses are to the point that someone is envious of their business prowess, for which everything is being done to drive them from the state. You may have heard this severally, no wonder, their activities increase with thicker consistency; much to the annoyance of those who cherish having a good business environment.
They have occupied and will continue to take over the spaces left. No government would tolerate this fragrant abuse of business opportunities provided by the state. If it happens anywhere else, could this scenario be tolerated? I have not found any argument which supports the traders’ attitude for genuine business engagement in the state.
It is on this note that we are quick to point to the annoying display of goods on Sundays on Ahmadu Bello Way in Jos. Nothing annoys the sensibilities of sane people than the manner; the ‘Sunday Market’ traders go about their trade.
Get this right: I am not a sadist. I am happy for those who are successful in life. I can prod them on and on for more doors to be opened for their businesses; and that is not to say we should be happy if their activities are not in tandem with the best practices that are available elsewhere.
I shouldn’t bother myself if the spaces are genuinely acquired and correct fees are paid to government for their services. And talking about fees for the spaces they use each Sunday, I am not sure there is any authority that is out every time their wares are display for sale to collect local revenue charges. If there has been such collection, I have no reason to complain, but for them to be orderly.
There are Sundays that no one can hardly find a space for movement on Bello Way, Murtala Mohammed through Terminus. The thought that come into any discerning mind is that the buyers have been ‘imported’ to Jos. What this translates into is that the volume of business is high and more money is being raked, thereby enabling them to smile to the bank. If that is the case, where then is the place of the state regarding what should have accrued to it?
The question to ask is: Do the traders pay levies to the government? If they do, perhaps, we can safely conclude that the state is benefiting from their enterprise
The point being made therefore is that, the traders should not smile to their banks at the detriment of the state. Whilst agreeing that the traders are boosting the economy of the state by their activities, there is no way that Plateau government should lose its revenue.
Only recently the Ministry of Works through the Permanent Secretary, Engr. Sunday Hyat issued a press statement noting ‘government is dismayed with traders who have converted parts of the road and walkaways to markets where they display their wares especially Ahmadu Bello Way-Terminus, Murtala Mohammed Way, Kabong, Farin Gada, Gada Biu and Bukuru Township’. There are many other areas that are not mentioned; for which action must be taken.
What should be done? In the long run, whatever resources can be obtained, the Main Market should be reconstructed. It is one record that the government had started work; nothing can satisfy our determination towards rigorous revenue generation than to get it off the ground.
The state must not continue to lose revenue from the owners of the businesses that take place right before it. No state can afford such wanton disregard for authority, while its coffers are in serious need of finances to provide services and infrastructure to the people. Let the state return to Terminus and generate what rightly belongs to it.