Governor Simon Bako Lalong of Plateau State
It is common knowledge that the Jos Main Market is one of the iconic landmarks of Plateau State and a source of pride to the citizens who hold it dear to their hearts. The destruction of the market in 2002 has therefore remained one of the most tragic incidents to ever befall the State which caused unquantifiable economic loses, emotional trauma and denied the State tourist and business opportunities which prevailed before its destruction.
During the campaign for the Governorship of Plateau State in 2015, Rt. Hon. Simon Bako Lalong (then candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC) promised to rebuild the market if elected. Those who watched the gubernatorial election debate would recall that whereas Lalong promised to rebuild the market, his major opponent said otherwise. At the end of the day, the electorate made their choice based upon this promise and many others that the APC candidate offered.
Therefore, upon coming into office in 2015, the Governor began the process of rebuilding the Jos Main Market as one of his key priorities. His Rescue Administration contacted major financial institutions and investors within and outside the country for the project. Many came with huge enthusiasm and promises which appeared promising and prompted the Government to demolish the existing parts of the structure on May 17 2019 in preparation for the reconstruction. It is important to note that at this point that a lot of politically motivated propaganda had started being circulated against the efforts of the Governor where it was alleged that billions were spent to demolish the structure. This was false.
Nevertheless, the Government was not deterred and continued detailed discussions with the investors that indicated interest in rebuilding the market. These discussions got deeper but became stuck upon requests from the intending investors and financial institutions which in summary required that Plateau State:
a. Gives them a Bank Guarantee
b. Letter of Comfort to own and manage the market for as long as it takes them to recoup their investment
c. Guarantee to off-take 70% of the shops (in other words buy them)
d. Bring 20% of the cost of reconstruction aside the land being its equity etc.
These negotiations which involved many experts and key Government officials continued and the offers did not favour the State but put it at a disadvantage. Moreover, the Government was not in a position to give Bank Guarantee of almost 20 billion naira that some investors submitted. It could not also pledge to off-take the shops when built instead of buyers doing so. Many would remember that the Government was committed to settling backlog of inherited salaries from the previous PDP administration and ensuring paying regularly; completing abandoned projects inherited from the PDP; working to improve IGR among others which meant it could not guarantee such demands made by the prospective investors. The Governor further met with foreign and local investors who did not also provide any better deal for the State in the rebuilding of the Jos Main Market. Looking at other commitments of the Government already tied to its monthly income, it was not possible to enter into another funding that will be a huge burden for the State and nearly impossible to handle.
THE JAIZ BANK OFFER:
Despite the setbacks, Governor Lalong kept hope alive and promised to do his best to fulfill his promise to the people of Plateau State who gave him their mandate in 2015 and 2019. This determination yielded positive results when the Governor upon learning of other huge market projects in various Northern, Eastern and South South States funded by Jaiz Bank Plc, decided to engage them on the idea of rebuilding the burnt Jos Main Market. Talks started in 2021 between the State Government and Jaiz Bank. Series of deliberations were held which brought up the following offer by the investing bank.
1. The Bank will finance the reconstruction of the market 100% with the Plateau State Government not required to pay a kobo.
2. The Land (over 7.4 hectares) is the equity of the Plateau State Government which it is contributing to the project.
3. The project will be done in three phases yielding a total of 4,321 shops which will be shared in the ratio of 60% (Jaiz Bank) 40% (Plateau Government).
4. The 60-40% ratio is for the purpose of leasing out the shops only. The entire market still belongs to the Plateau State Government.
5. Those who lease the shops from either Plateau State Government or Jaiz bank will own it for a period of 40 years after which ownership returns to the Government. At this point, new investors can purchase from the State Government or the existing buyers renew their leases.
6. As soon as Jaiz Bank finishes selling its 60%, it will cease to have any interest in the market as those holding the lease will deal only with the Plateau State Government through the management of the Market (Jos Main Market Authority) and the Ministry of Commerce which is a parastatal of the Government.
7. The entire shops will be sold to interested buyers without prejudice to faith, ethnicity or political affiliations. It is open for the public to invest in.
8. The first phase will be delivered and commissioned before the end of the tenure of Governor Lalong.
Having gone through the offer by Jaiz Bank, the State Executive Council further subjected the proposal to extensive deliberations and scrutiny and came to the conclusion that the deal was good for the State and the investor, hence its approval. Besides, the Government carried out its due diligence to study the track record of Jaiz Bank in delivering such projects. It found that the bank in partnership with Kano State government and private investors, is constructing a multi-million world-class drug-only wholesale market, the first of its type in Nigeria, at the Kano Economic City. In a similar arrangement, the bank in partnership with the Niger State Government, is developing three hectares in the Minna City Centre to provide for a shopping complex, modern underground parks, modern filling station, warehouses, corner shops, restaurants and a recreational centre. It is also doing so in Kaduna and Enugu States among others. Based on above examples of performance profile and experience the Plateau State Government is optimistic of the bank’s capacity to handle the Jos market project and deliver.
Therefore, the Government has also engaged the leadership of the Plateau State House of Assembly and its relevant Committees on the benefits of the project to the State.
SENSITIZATION AND AWARENESS:
Thereafter, the State EXCO mandated its relevant MDAs to carry out sensitization and awareness by engaging various stakeholders ahead of the signing of the MOU for Rebuilding the Jos Main Market. The Governor also personally engaged top religious, traditional, elders and other leaders of thought on the project knowing fully the passion that they have on the market which is a great heritage of the State. As part of the engagement and sensitization, the Hon. Commissioners for Commerce, Information and Communication and other Government officials met with stakeholders representing various groups in the State to breakdown the content of the proposed MOU between Plateau State Government and Jaiz Bank. This was successfully done with questions being raised by those in attendance and answers provided.
Regrettably, the outcome of this engagement has been twisted, politicised and reported under the caption “Governor Lalong cedes Jos Main Market to Islamic Bank”. This has unnecessarily invoked passions and emotions portraying a false narrative that the State was parting with its cherished heritage to an “Islamic Bank”. While the Government respects the rights of its citizens to raise questions on every decision and make their observations and displeasure known, the Rescue Administration wishes to allay the fears being raised as the deal will not work against the State. Rather, it is an opportunity to once again raise the sleeping giant heritage of the famous Jos Main Market which has not added any value to the Government and its people since it was burnt down 21 years ago.
Government assures the citizens of Plateau State that sensitization and enlightenment will continue before, during and after the reconstruction in order to address genuine concerns which require answers and clarifications.
BENEFITS OF THE DEAL TO PLATEAU STATE AND ITS CITIZENS
While Jaiz Bank hopes to make profit from the partnership for its shareholders, the Government and people of Plateau State also stands to gain a lot from the reconstruction of the Jos Main Market. Here are some expected benefits for the State and its citizens.
1. The State will generate more revenue from the operations of the market and be able to carry out other projects and programmes for the good of the people.
2. The moribund Jos Main Market Authority (JMMA) will be brought back to life as it is saddled with the responsibility of managing the market.
3. All willing and able Plateau citizens will be given an opportunity to buy and own shops in the market either from the State Government (40%) or Jaiz Bank (60%).
- Priority will be given to those who lost shops in the burnt market to in the sales of the new shops.
5. Government will monitor the sale of the market to ensure that no individuals or groups are given unfair treatment over others in the sale of the market on basis of faith, ethnicity, political affiliation or other considerations. There will be equity, fairness and justice to all.
6. Property around the Jos Main Market area will appreciate in value
7. More jobs will be created during and after the construction.
8. More people will visit Plateau State for trading activities and tourism thereby generating more economic activities and revenue.
9. The market will further promote the efforts of the Rescue Administration in restoring the peace and harmony of the past since the market embraces people with different faiths, ethnicity and origins.
10. The success of this partnership will boost the confidence of other investors to come into the State and establish their presence and partner with the Government in other projects and programmes.
From the foregoing, it is very clear that the intentions of the Plateau State Government is pure and well thought out as they are for the benefit of the State and its citizens. The terms of the MOU between the Government and Jaiz Bank are clear and be be scrutinised and can be verified. The Rescue Administration under the leadership of Rt. Hon. (Dr) Simon Bako Lalong will never do anything to mortgage the heritage, rights and privileges of its people. On the contrary, the Lalong administration is buying back sold assets such as the BARC Farms which has been acquired. In the reconstruction of the Jos Main Market, Government has weighed all the options and found that this deal is the most favourable considering the lack of funds for the Government to carry out direct intervention or take a loan with astronomical interest rates. Leaving the market at its current state does not do anyone good because it is not generating anything for the State and its citizens. Rather, the land remains wasted and a hideout for criminals.
The Government wishes to assure the citizens that everything is being done to ensure that interested Plateau people benefit from the shops and also participate in the economic activities that will come up once the market is delivered.
Therefore, the Government appeals to all citizens to carefully peruse the project and avoid being deceived by politicians who are bent on ensuring that the market is not reconstructed so as to score cheap political point against Governor Lalong and the APC particularly at the eve of the general elections.
Bottom line is that Jos Main Market is the property of Plateau State and shall remain so for ever. However, it makes no economic sense for the property to remain at its current state of decomposition when it can be revived and put to use in a win- win situation for the benefit of the citizens. If any citizen has a better and genuine offer for the reconstruction of the market than the one on the table right now, the Lalong Government is a listening one and would pay attention. As at today, there has not been such offer. What is needed is the unity of purpose and the will to make this project a reality for posterity and the good of the people of Plateau State. Not everything needs to be politicised.
There is no need for anxiety, sentiments, misgivings, misconceptions and misrepresentation which is being pushed out by political forces that has resulted in name-calling, insults and hatred of both Government and individuals in the social media and otherwise. As a matter of fact as Government is aware of planned demonstrations being sponsored by the opposition against this noble gesture initiative between Plateau State Government and Jaiz Bank.
Let us always THINK and ACT Plateau.
Hon. Dan Manjang, anipr
Commissioner for Information and Communication, Plateau State.
28th July 2022.