By Tata Mbunwe
The first phase of construction works for the Buea Central has begun, after seven years of unexplained delays by the Buea Council.
The several acres of land carved out years ago for the project, located at Bwitingi in Buea, have been idling since 2015, when Buea’s former Mayor, late Ekema Patrick Esunge, convinced the populace work was starting soon.
Ekema laid the ground work for the central market project on Friday, February 13, 2015, in much-celebrated ceremony that later turned to be a scam.
Seven years later, the Buea Central Market project has remained a myth until now; no shops have yet been constructed, no work has been done as per the 2015 launch.
The late Mayor Ekema Patrick had signed a memorandum of understanding with a supposed Nigerian construction company Mothercat, which was to execute the project billed at FCFA 2.5 billion.
Based on the agreement, the company was to build, operate the market for some years, before transferring it to the Buea Council. According to Ekema Patrick, the Buea Central Market was to become the biggest and the best market in the Central Africa sub region, upon completion. This was to the amazement of the Buea population who have long been awaiting a market.
But, four years later – in 2019 when Ekema died – not a single block was yet standing on another at the market. The Buea Central Market was still dusty, filled with dilapidating open shades.
The project was grounded because of a scandal that rocked the construction. It was reported that Mothercat Cameroon was never a subsidiary of Nigerian construction company Mothercat, as it claimed to be. The claims had been a scam.
Just four months after the project was launched, Mothercat could not deliver, it could not pay workers. Its supposed CEO, Alechenu Yusuf, was arrested in June 2015.
It was reported that Mothercat could not finance the project and had begun soliciting for people to buy shares in the company as a means of raising money for the project. But this strategy turned out futile.
In a 2018 analytic report, cameroonpostline.com website questioned the authenticity of the project, stating that the project had been a scam and was “drowning in hoaxes and political rhetoric”.
After taking over from Ekema in 2019, the present Mayor of Buea, David Mafany Namange, promised in one of the Council’s budgetary sessions that the central market project was to be tackled.
During the December 2021 budgetary session, the Buea Council adopted FCFA 2.8 billion as 2022 budget and among the projects envisaged was the construction of the Buea Central Market.
Today, works are going on. Although they are still at the foundation level, many expect the project will soon materialise to save the population the economic stress of jumping from one small market to another with their goods.
Buea currently has about six small markets, none of which has been well constructed. They all function in open spaces and function only on specific days.
They included the Small Soppo Market, OIC Market, the Buea Town Market, Mile 16 Market and Muea Market.