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Nebbi traders bitter over creation of rival market

Traders in Nebbi main market are bitter over the creation of a rival market at the district’s Mayor’s garden which they say has affected their businesses.

Mayor’s garden temporary market was created in March this year following presidential directives to decongest all the populated public places as one of the control measures against the spread of the COVID-19 virus. 

The controversial decision has led to rifts between the traders and politicians in the Municipality, and the market has become a political ‘poison pill’ for the incumbent Mayor and a rallying cry for rivals eager to unseat him in upcoming elections. 

 Disgruntled traders say the creation of the new market has caused them loss of customers and negatively impacted on their incomes.

“The market at Mayor’s garden led to the closure of several businesses here since the new market has taken over their customers,” says Judith Anefua, a produce dealer in the main market. 

Moreover, Anefua charges that whereas the new market was created to decongest Nebbi main market as part of measures to fight COVID-19, it is now over populated, with Special Operating Procedures being ignored.

“Why can’t authorities come up openly and declare the rival market as an independent market?” she wondered.

But not everyone is unhappy with the new market’s existence.

John Okethwengu, a farmer who operates at the Mayor’s garden market, says he is content at the new market because he has ready customers for his produce, unlike in the main market where farmers would clash with resident vendors over space. 

“We who come from outside town are forced to sell our items on the floor because all the market stalls are occupied by indigenous vendors who don’t leave any space for us,” he said.

Okethwengu says the only shortcoming with the Mayor’s garden market is that it lacks shades, since it was meant to be temporary. 

The Nebbi Municipal Mayor, Geoffrey Ngiriker, affirms that the contentious new market at Mayor’s gardens was meant as a temporary measure to relieve the main market which had become over populated during the COVID-era. 

“Before COVID-19, Nebbi town's main market accommodated 4000 people, but during the pandemic its population was 7000 because all the small markets in the district had been closed. Hence, there was a need to create another market nearby to decongest the main one,” Ngiriker said.  

Responding to complaints by traders in the main market, the Mayor says the municipal council is hesitant to re-merge the markets and close the temporary one because the government has not come out officially on re-opening markets countrywide, especially now that the country is registering a surge in COVID-19 cases countrywide.

Ngiriker admits that traders in Nebbi main market are complaining about the loss of their customers, and put it down to the fact that the rival market accommodates mostly farmers who come from their homes to sell their items cheaply compared to the permanent traders stationed at the main market.  

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