[SIZE=7]The shame of Sh25m Ndaragwa market turned into a sex den, dumpsite, and criminal hideout[/SIZE]
Monday, March 27, 2023
By Waikwa Maina
Nation Media Group
The cream and green walls, with the dark green iron sheet roof is the most beautiful and biggest building — occupying almost an acre — at Ndaragwa Stadium in Ndaragwa town, Nyandarua County.
On approaching the building, a market, one expects to find business booming, with buyers and sellers haggling over prices, and trucks offloading farm produce and other merchandise, which would give the Sh25 million building purpose.
But the unoccupied market is a shame to the community, a sex den scattered with used and unused condoms; a dumping site, and a den for criminals to hide in.
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The market’s abandonment and neglect as traders suffer is attributed to a contractor refusing to hand over the project to the county government for renovations and operationalizing.
Though located within the town centre, we find groups of youths smoking bhang, unbothered. Others are peddling drugs openly.
The market is among four built at a total cost of Sh100 million in 2011, fully funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development through the Ministry of Agriculture.
They were built to promote agribusiness in Nyandarua County under the Small Holder Horticultural Market Programme.
Traders are pictured at the Sh24 million Ndaragwa market, which was abandoned after a contractor’s refusal to hand it over to the Nyandarua County government for completion. Waikwa Maina | Nation Media Group
Other markets are Soko Mpya in Kinangop Constituency, which was put in operation by the county government; Oleriondo Horticultural Roadside Market in Ol Kalou, at Sh42 million, now converted into a bar by a prominent trader; and the Sh40 million Murungaru Processing Plant, which is yet to be operationalized.
Apart from the more than 1,000-capacity open-air space, Ndaragua market has 22 modern shops, each measuring about 15 by 15 feet wide.
Doors to some of the rooms have been vandalized, and it is these rooms that residents say host illicit traders, including day and night brothels and criminal and drug dens.
Ms Gladys Njoki, who hawks on the streets, recalled attending a public participation forum to approve the construction of the market at the stadium.
She recalls how she would visit the construction site every day to check on its progress, even choosing her preferred spot as she waited for the market to be finished.
“We were very happy and motivated after years of operating from the dusty streets. The traders and farmers were optimistic that completion of the market would end our woes and would attract traders and farmers from neighboring Laikipia, Nyeri, and Nakuru counties, but the market is now a shame and a pain to us. The county government is losing millions of shillings in taxes as farmers and traders move to Jikaze and Nyahururu markets,” said Ms Njoki.
Ms Grace Muthoni, a clothes vendor in a makeshift stall near the abandoned Ndaragwa market, said traders incur huge losses, with their clothes destroyed by the sun or mud during the rains, while the state of the market discourages many buyers.
“It pains us to suffer for lack of a proper place to do our business while a fortune was spent to build the modern market. We operate from filthy streets yet the county collects Sh100 from us. The market building has been vandalized, all evils are committed there. It’s a brothel and a dustbin, the new market lacks toilets, it’s not connected to water, lacks electricity, and the beautiful structure is complete. The building is a no-go zone for women traders due to the illicit activities happening inside there” said Ms Muthoni.
Part of the Sh24 million Ndaragwa market was abandoned after a contractor’s refusal to hand it over to the Nyandarua County government for completion.
Waikwa Maina | Nation Media Group
Ms Ann Wangari, 73, also a trader at the market, agreed with Ms Njoki, saying she was ashamed to mention what happens in the building that was meant to be a blessing to the community and traders.
‘The evils happening in that building are giving Ndaragua a bad name, it is a place many avoid. The county government should complete the remaining part and open the market for us. If opened, the market will be a game changer in Ndaragwa, it will attract traders and farmers from other counties, some of the things we see in that building are a shame and disgrace,” said the grandmother.
Women Representative Faith Gitau said the operationalized and incomplete projects meant to benefit the community should be prioritized before starting new ones.
“The national government has resolved not to start any new projects before those started by former regimes are completed. Starting new markets and other projects before the older ones are completed is a waste of public resources, I am pained to see the traders suffer yet we have such an investment,” said Ms Gitau.
Nyandarua Tourism, Cooperative Development, Trade, and Industrialisation Executive Member Agnes Njunji assured county residents that the market would be operationalized, and blamed the contractor for not handing over the project to the county government.
“We understand the traders’ and farmers’ plight; the investment should have been a game changer to them. I do not wish to discuss why the contractor never handed the project to former county governments, but we are working on it, we are discussing with the contractor to see how to iron out the pending issues so that we can take over the market. Our governor, Dr Kiarie Badilisha, has met the contractor and other stakeholders and discussions are at an advanced stage to have the market handed over to us,” said Ms Njunji.
She said the market is 90 percent complete and the county government would install water, electricity, and other amenities once they take over the market.
On the Oleriondo Horticultural Roadside Market, the CEC said the county is trying a different approach to attract traders.
“We shall allocate the traders the stalls free of charge, but the main challenge is that the stalls are some distance from the Gilgil-Nyahururu highway and are unlikely to attract motorists. We plan to encourage the traders to occupy the roadside areas of the market where we are installing Cabro blocks to make it decent. We shall then give the traders some umbrellas so that the outside market activities can attract motorists. But we must first make it attractive and appealing to both traders and target customers,” said Ms Njunji.
Dr Badilisha told the Nation that Trade Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria had offered to pay the contractor and hand over the project to the county government.
“I had a conversation with the Trade CS Moses Kuria and he has committed to sort out the Contractor so that the project can be handed over to the county government,” said Dr Badilisha.