By Harrison Arubu
The 11th Abuja International Trade Fair entered its ninth day on Saturday with exhibitors and traders lamenting the “unprecedented’’ low visitor turnout.
The two-week fair, organised by the Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), opened on Sept. 22 and is expected to end on Oct. 8.
A visit by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) to the Jeremiah Useni Trade Fair Complex on Airport Road, the venue of the event, revealed low presence of visitors and customers.
Most of the exhibitors and traders could be seen sitting in front of their stands waiting for visitors, except for a few attending to a customer or two.
Speaking with NAN, some of the participants blamed the low turnout on the current economic downturn in the country, lack of publicity by the organisers, and the location of the fair.
Mr Isaac Ende, a juice extractor exhibitor, described the 11th edition as the worst in the history of the fair.
“By this time in the previous editions, I had recorded over 100 visitors at my stand, but as we speak I have not seen up to 30 since the fair opened.
“I paid N50,000 to rent space, while other exhibitors paid as much as N200,000 each, and I doubt we would be able to recover the cost,’’ Ende said.
A kitchen utensils trader, Mr John Ezeugwu, who spoke in similar vein, lamented that business was far below expectation.
“I thought that by now I would have exhausted my stocks and ordered for more from the warehouse, but I have not even sold up to a quarter of my stock.
“As you can see, exhibitors and traders are far more than the visitors, and it has been like this since the fair opened.
Another exhibitor, Mrs Grace Ukala, blamed the situation on the current economic crunch and on the location of the trade fair complex, which was a few minutes drive from the Abuja City Centre.
Ukala, who exhibited locally made fabrics and other fashion products, alleged that the publicity for the fair was poor.
However, Mr Barry Woods, a food spices exhibitor from Delta, commended the organisers for doing a great job with the fair.
“The Abuja International Trade Fair is 11 years old; it will be unfair to compare it to a fair of 30 years or 40 years.
“Besides, Abuja is not a strong commercial city like Lagos or Onitsha, but even at that, the fair is not doing badly.
“I must commend the organisers for doing a great job, and I strongly believe they will get there soon,’’ Woods said.
He also commended the fair organisers for the security and logistics arrangement at the complex.
Meanwhile, other participants expressed satisfaction with the security and logistics arrangement, including provision of amenities such as water, sanitation and electricity.
Reacting to the complaints, Ms Tonia Shoyele, the ACCI Director of Membership and Business Development, confirmed the low turnout of visitors.
Shoyele, who spoke with NAN earlier on Friday, attributed the low visitor turnout to the current economic downturn in the country.
“It is very true that visitor turnout at the fair is low. We all know what is happening in the economy right now.
“These days, people like to take many things into consideration before spending their money, and one of the results is what we are experiencing at this fair.’’
Shoyele debunked the exhibitors’ allegation that low publicity by the organisers also contributed to the poor turnout.
According to her, there has been a massive awareness campaign running in various mass medium since a few months leading up to the event’s commencement till date.
When asked to compare this year’s edition with last year’s in terms of turnout, Shoyele declined, saying it was her first time at the fair.