Friday 6 September 2019

Xenophobia: Shop owners lament low patronage at Abuja Mall

A cross section of vendors at Jabi Lake Mall, Abuja, on Thursday, expressed displeasure

over the low patronage they are experiencing as a result of the violent protests over the xenophobic attacks against Nigerians in South Africa.

The shopkeepers, who spoke to The PUNCH, said their sales had dwindled significantly as customers were apprehensive of visiting the mall, following reports of insecurity at other malls around the country.

Violent protests, including assault, vandalism and looting, against suspected South African businesses had been recorded at Circle Mall, Jakande, Lagos and Novare Gateway Mall, Lugbe, Abuja on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, with at least one protester dead.

When our correspondent visited Novare Gateway Mall, about six police vans blocked all entrances and stern-looking police officers turned back all motorists attempting to enter the mall.

Also, MTN closed its stores nationwide in the wake of attempts to burn down them down.

When our correspondent visited Jabi Lake Mall, there were only a handful of shoppers and fun-seekers at the mall.

The Manager, Ovis Massage, Samuel Omokaro, stated that between Wednesday and Thursday, the violent protests had affected business.

According to him, business has been quite slow because I think people have been boycotting Jabi Lake Mall to avoid any issue that might come up but there is no violence.

“We get an average of 20 customers on a normal day. But between yesterday and today, I’ve not even had (close to) 20. As you can see, a lot of shops are locked, so people who patronize us, sometimes, they go to other shops and stop by here.”

Several of the shop owners, who spoke on condition of anonymity, noted that a branch of the popular South African franchise supermarket, Shoprite, located at the mall was closed on Wednesday amid the tension arising from the protests.

The Manager/Director, Burger Meal, Ahmed Bawa, told our correspondent that there were still some customers who visited the mall on Wednesday despite some shops remaining closed for the day.

Bawa said, “Some store owners are scared that the same thing that happened in Lagos would happen again. But if you check Shoprite, there is a lot of security standing by the entrance. They are ready for any problem that may happen, so I don’t believe what happened in Lagos can happen here.”

The Centre Manager of the mall, Lucas Omotosho, confirmed that several shops had opted not to open, while the security in and around the mall had been increased to protect shoppers and vendors.

Omotosho said, “Expectedly, a few stores decided not to open yesterday, not because we told them not to open. For them to have decided not to open yesterday, we are not going to compel them to operate, which is understandable looking at what has happened in Lagos and some other parts of the country.”

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