Image: Former Governor Gabriel Suswam and Yemisi Suswam
*Abuja traders accuse her of extorting money over shops allocation*
These are indeed trying times for embattled immediate-past governor of Benue State, Gabriel Suswam.
Barely one week after being quizzed for over nine hours by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for alleged misappropriation of State funds while he was in office, a contingent of fierce-looking police officers from the FCT Police Command on Saturday saved his wife, Mrs. Yemisi Suswam, from mob attack.
Aggrieved traders had taken to the streets to protest alleged extortion and continued denial of access to their shops at the Wuye Ultra-Modern Market.
They market was developed by All Purpose Shelter Development Company, a firm owned having links with Mrs. Suswam and in which she is said to be the major financier..
She was inside the multi-billionaire market under construction, when the protesters arrived.
The former Benue State First Land, who was held hostage for some hours in the market by the traders who accused her of conniving with the authorities of the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) of not only extorting money from them but also denying them access to the shops they have since paid for.
Chairman of Association of Wuye Ultra-Modern Market Allotees, Chief Ifeanyi Ezejim, said the traders paid various amounts of money ranging between N2,000 and N8,000 as allocation free, to the FCDA.
He therefore asked the FCDA authorities to give tell them the statutory fee, so that they can pay and move into their shops to start their businesses.
The protest, according to him, was informed by an order of an Abuja High Court, which had asked the FCDA to declare the statutory fees for the shops but which the latter had not obeyed.
“Somebody somewhere who believes that he or she is above the law is now using the police to stop the traders from doing their businesses. This is why we are protesting, we are not happy and we will not continue to wait to be accepting all these intimidation.
“The intimidation is too much and I don’t know the type of country we are that the police who supposed to be adhering to the law of the land is going against the law. So, we are not happy with the conduct of the Nigeria police today.
“We have gone to the FCDA and they did not say that we have no allocation here, they did not say we did not pay for allocation of shops here even though we are hearing rumour here now that FCDA said that we did not pay anything. It is not true, we are telling them here that ‘give us the statutory fee so that we pay and continue our businesses.’
“The court has even told the FCDA that ‘give these people the statutory feels so that they can pay and they are not ready to do it.” We have so far paid what is required of us but we are talking of the statutory fees now.
“This is the FCT Area Command of the Nigeria Police that is deployed here and being led by the area commander. Mrs Suswan, the wife of the former governor of Benue State is inside there. She is instrumental to what is happening here. She said that she use her money to construct the market and so, wants to get here money back.”
In his reaction, Lekan Ogunleye, the Secretary/Legal Adviser to All Purpose Shelter Development (Mrs. Suswam’s firm) that developed the market, said the traders had not been given a location because they were not ready to pay some money requires of them.
He said, “In 2002, government advertised for the construction of four markets in Abuja, which were in Garki, Kaura, Wuye and Mabuchi and All Purpose Shelter Development won the contract for the construction of Wuye Market.
“They took loan from bank to build the Wuye market. The same government gave the developer a list of 5,605 traders that can benefit from this market.
“Meanwhile, the total number of shops in this market is just 1,600 shops and people have been paying the developer since 2007 for these shops with the same Federal Capital Development Authority papers.
“Now, in 2012, we went to court over this place (market) based on the year 2002 FCDA papers which give them right to use and enjoy these shops without making any further payment other than the N 2000,N5000 and N8000 that that have paid.
“But the problem that now arose was that the court went ahead to also say that they have the right to use and enjoy the shop. However, we, the developer are now of the opinion that there are certain conditions that would make ‘you enjoy that right’ , we are not denying that they don’t have right but there are certain things that they need to do to enjoy the shops just like any other person who carries the same FCDA papers have done.
“But they are here now saying no, we are not going to do anything. What I expect their lawyer to do is to advise them that they should go back to that court and say “the shop you gave us, these people are denying us, take the developer for contempt of court” so that the court can make further order and say go and use it without further payment or pay before you use.
“For us as a company to achieve that, we have filed paper in court for the court to say so. And the case is coming up on the 10th of December but the way the whole thing is going, we are looking at a situation where it can come up earlier.
“Since last week, FCDA have advertised in so many newspapers that they should go and meet the developer to tell them how much to pay. I have personally written letter to their lawyer that this is what you are going to pay but he has not replied me only for them to come up with this protest.”