By Olasunkanmi Akoni
AGAINST the backdrop of numerous dangers street trading pose to lives as well as the unhygienic attitude of most Lagos residents, the State Government outlawed all forms of street trading. Those who run foul of the law, are liable to pay an unspecified amount of money as fines or go to jail as the case may be.
Enforcement of the zero tolerance had led to the sealing of many markets in different parts of the state. The markets were later reopened after the traders had complied with the environmental law. For traders at the popular Computer Village in Ikeja, Thursday last week, was a day they would not forget in a hurry.
This is because, the state government, as part of the ongoing environmental sanitation exercise and clampdown on illegal trading, temporarily shut down the Village over alleged security threats and violation of the state’s environmental laws.
It would be recalled that the Computer Village, one of the biggest markets for all kinds of computer hard and software materials in West Africa sub-region, was sealed off recently but was later reopened by agents of the state government.
Vanguard Features learnt that men of the Lagos State Environmental and Special Offences Enforcement Unit, stormed the area in the afternoon and put the market under lock and key. The action of the Task Force followed a distress call from the market leaders that some displaced street traders were gathering to disrupt the business of shop owners for allegedly inviting the environmental unit to come after them.
The Task Force was said to have been led by its chairman, Superintendent of Police, SP, Bayo Sulaimon. On arrival, the Task Force dislodged all the illegal street traders and their miscreants who had already mobilized to attack the shop owners.
VF was told that the street traders took to their heels on sighting members of the enforcement unit. The stampede was said to have caused a pandemonium which resulted into temporary traffic gridlock around Kodesoh, Ikeja under bridge and Simbiat Abiola Way.
As at 5 pm, when Vanguard Features got to the scene, men of the Task Force had left but some of the shop owners who spoke to VF said they left after restoring normalcy to the area. They debunked the reports that the market was shut down due to violation of environmental law.
One of the shop owners who simply identified himself as Omotosho explained what transpired. “It is not true that the Task Force shut the market due to violation of environmental law. It was the leadership of the market that called in the Task Force to come and help protect lives and property as some of the recently displaced street traders have invaded the market and threatened a showdown with the shop owners.
“They alleged that it was due to activities of the shop owners that the task force men flushed them out of business, hence, the plan for retaliation. As they were gathering to hatch their plan, men of the task force arrived and immediately dislodged them,” he said.
Meanwhile, normalcy has since returned to the market as businesses have resumed with shop owners and customers going about their legal businesses.
What led to the temporary closure: It was gathered that trouble started when a group of miscreants, already displaced in the market over street trading by the Lagos State Government, were addressed by the Oba of Ikeja, who allegedly ordered the dislodged traders to return to the street for business.
The Assistant Secretary General of the Computer and Allied Products Dealers Association of Nigeria, CAPDAN, the umbrella body of legitimate IT traders in the market, Mr. John Oboro, confirmed the development.
Gathering of street traders
He said: “Today, they came to the market ready to be inaugurated to take over the market. They insisted that the street trading that the governor has outlawed must come back. So, the Oba came to address the ‘area boys’ as they gathered in clusters with his entourage after them; they also addressed the street traders and that was what provoked the shop owners to close down business in the market until security was put in place.”
Oboro, stated that CAPDAN leadership immediately alerted the office of the Task Force and Area and State Commands of an impending security breach in the village. “Having assessed the security situation, the President of CAPDAN, Mr. Tunji Balogun, later ordered that the market be reopened for business,” he said.
Task force chairman speaks: The Chairman of the Task Force, Mr. Bayo Sulaiman, who later confirmed the incident, said normalcy had been restored to the market. He stated that the state government would not allow anyone to breach the law regardless of his or her status and position in the society.
Sulaiman warned the traditional ruler who allegedly ordered illegal street trading in the market to desist from doing such, because anyone caught, would be ruthlessly dealt with according to the law. He said: “What we just did today is sustenance; we have been sustaining the place for the past three weeks. But today, we just realised that one traditional ruler stormed the market with some touts and ordered illegal traders and hawkers to continue to sell on the road because nobody can stop them.
“Our action is to inform whoever is telling those people to sell on the road that no one is above the law. The law will take its course against such a person if he threatens the marketers or anyone in that market again.” Sulaiman stated that the Computer village has been reopened to allow lawful marketers and buyers to go about their normal business.
Oba Amore refutes allegation
Meanwhile, the Olu of Ikeja, Oba Adeniyi Matemi Amore, had debunked the allegation that he instructed the displaced street traders at the popular Commuter Village, in Ikeja to return to the streets. He said: “At no time did I instruct the street traders to go back to Computer Village. The accusation is baseless, malicious and with no substance whatsoever.”
The Oba reiterated same when VF contacted him, saying: “That I said street traders should trade in Computer Village is not true.
Some persons ordered lock-up shop owners to close because of the inauguration of their newly elected executive council whose membership are touts. I did not order them to close anybody’s shop for inauguration.
That was what took me to the market to address them, the shop owners, on the need to allow those who want to open for business to do so. That’s all. How can I encourage street trading against the wish of the state government? I have no power to do so. I do not support street trading and I can never support it.”
The Oba urged media professionals to always endeavour to cross check their facts on any information before such is disseminated for public consumption.