Marketeers shun newly dedicated structure
The huge celebration and fanfare that greeted the dedication ceremony of the newly constructed state-of-an-art “14 Gobachop Market” in the Omega Community in Paynesville might likely dissipate into total frustration as marketeers are already putting up resistance to be relocated.
According to the marketeers, the newly built 14 “14 Gobachop Market” is not only far away from where customers are concentrated, but too small to accommodate them all — “therefore, they are unable to move there.”
President George Weah on Friday, October 9, 2020, danced his way to the podium to officially dedicate the market in an elaborate ceremony. There, he admonished the marketeers to make maximum use of the facility in order to help better their lives and that of their families.
Thousands of people gather daily at the existing Gobachop Market in Red Light to transact. The convergence of people at Red Light to transact business dates as far back as the early 1990s. Marketeers have become used to the Red-light market to the extent that the city government and even the national government have found it difficult to manage, let alone relocate them.
Little is known about how the Gobachop market got its name, albeit a Liberianized pronunciation of ‘Gorbachev’, the name of the last leader of the Soviet Union.
Red Light, a major commercial hub in the City of Paynesville, screams bad roads, congestion, filth and mountains of garbage. The place is also notorious for crime, including armed robbery in certain parts. Marketeers who depend on the convergence of commuters in Red Light to peddle their wares spread their goods on the main road and sidewalks, preventing vehicles and pedestrians from having the right of way.
People also uncontrollably dump dirt everywhere and litter the place with the expectation that the municipal authorities will do the cleanup. Both the road from Coca-Cola Factory to the ELWA Junction and the Somalia Drive are undergoing construction, but as road builders finish portions, marketeers dump dirt in the drainage, so that the newly constructed roads have turned filthy and almost inaccessible to vehicles.
The construction of the existing Gobachop Market, which is one of the largest in the country for now, was precipitated by the long years of overcrowdedness and unsanitary nature of the Red-Light Market, which overflowed to the street at a major transit hub between Monrovia and the hinterland.
The undesirable congestion of traffic and stench oozing out of Red-Light on a daily basis has always been a concern—a situation that provoked the immediate past administration of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to embark on the Omega Market project on the outskirts of Paynesville.
However, sources told the Daily Observer that the Omega Market project was taken away from the project implementers, the Sirleaf Market Womens Fund (SMWF), and turned over to other personalities close to the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf administration who wanted to build an exclusive, luxury gated community where the unfinished market structure is located.
The “14 Gobachop Market”, erected by the Weah Administration, stands not far from the Omega Market building erected by the SMWF. Both were built with the same purpose in mind: to relocate Gobachop and help clear congestion in Red Light. But both structures have been decried by the intended users, the marketeers, that the space is too small and the location is too far from where customers want to converge.
Few weeks to the dedication of the 14 Gobachop Market, some members of the leadership of the Red Light Market expressed doubt over whether the plan to relocate marketeers to the new site is feasible or implementable.
The Acting Superintendent at Red Light Market, Meline B. Jallah, said it was impossible for them to relocate to Omega during the past regime because there was not enough space to host marketeers.
The former Superintendent at that time, Tawah Bundoo, blamed the Liberia Marketing Association (LMA) for manipulating the minds of marketeers at Red Light that made the relocation impossible.
“LMA just wants to be at Red Light to be collecting LD$20.00 from marketeers without meeting the needs of sellers, and because this is their mission, they want to do everything not to open this market,” she noted.
When asked whether the allegations made by madam Bundoo were true, Jallah replied, “At Omega, we are not going to collect money from tables as we do here (Gobachop)? So the allegation is false and misleading, we will only collect money from Garbage which we do here as well.”
“Absolutely, no relocation if the structure of the market still remains as it is. Besides, there are limited numbers of tables for people to put their goods,” Jallah added.
According to him Gobachop field is occupying 2.3 acres of land, equivalent to about 10 of the land space of the Omega Market.
The red-Light market is a combination of several markets, including Pipeline, Plank field, Coalfield, Liquor field, Logs field, Nimba field, Bong county field, and Gobachop field.
Jallah said one of the reasons why it is will be difficult to relocate Red-light is that the Gobachop field cannot be taken out and Red-light left; therefore, everyone must be asked to leave.
“People in the Pipeline market come to the Gobachop field for raw pepper, bitter balls and okra to buy their goods, and those who sell these things come here to meet their customers. They depend on one another for business. Therefore, one group of people cannot go and leave the other,” the superintendent said.
Martha Siaway sells bitter balls and okra. She says though the newly built market will help to store their raw goods because it has a storage facility, the government should take into consideration the distance and the market space as well.
“I live Gardnersville and I have to be at Red-light before 6 a.m. Taking into consideration the risk, the streets are dark and Relight being one of the hubs for criminals, my safety is not guaranteed.”
She said, “Moreover, the Omega market cannot host the entire Gobachop field, more to say of the entire Red-light.”
Oretha Yarssah sells plantain and eddoes. She said: “You can’t leave your old boyfriend because you get a new boyfriend, you must first make sure whether the new man can give you everything your old friend was giving you before leaving.”
She said though Red-light is full of dirt, and they do not feel comfortable selling there, it has been a place for the survival of people to get their daily bread.
“Red-light is big; everyone has a spot to sell their market despite the polluted atmosphere.”