By Monsuru Olowoopejo
LAGOS—Traders from the demolished Owonifari electronic Market, Oshodi were weekend divided on whether to re-accept the Lagos State Government’s planned relocation to Oshodi Resettlement Market (former Isopakodowo market) or not. While some maintained their previous stance, others have backtracked.
It will be recalled that the traders had earlier rejected Lagos State Government’s plans to relocate them to Oshodi Resettlement Market, former Isopakodowo market, citing structural instability and several structural defects on the building as their reason for the rejection.
Vanguard gathered that larger percent of the traders towed ethnic lines in their decision. While those of Eastern extraction decided to secure shop in Arena Shopping Mall, Bolade, Oshodi, their Western brothers have opted for the government plans.
A visit to the Arena Shopping Mall, owned by the Nigerian Army on Saturday, the mall management were sighted instructing artisans on how some large shops should be partitioned. Also at their office, the desk officials were busy attending to applicants, especially traders of the demolished Owonifari market.
Also, the traders who have been allotted spaces/shops were seen waiting for their artisans to complete fixing of their furniture or sorting their goods before stocking them in their new shops.
Accepting demolition in good fate
A trader, Mrs. Bridget Okoro, who spoke to Vanguard, said that she had accepted the demolition in good fate, saying “I have moved on with my business. And I am happy that I have secured a shop here. Space in the mall is spacious compared to Owonifari electronic market.”
Another trader who identified himself as Solomon Okey, said that the location of the mall would afford him the opportunity to retain his customers. “It is just on the same axis. And it has enough parking lots. I believe that would also help us attract more customers.”
But the story is not the same for some traders who were yet to raise the required fund to rent shops in the mall.
A trader who spoke on the condition of anonymity, lamented that he was yet to raise the required fund to secure a shop in the Arena Shopping Mall, noting, “I am still sourcing for funds. Presently, I kept my goods in my friend’s warehouse. And immediately I could achieve that, I will approach the mall management to secure a shop.”
A representative of the mall’s management who identified herself as Mercy, explained to Vanguard that the rent was N300,000 per annum, N3,000 agreement fee and monthly access charge of N6,000.
However for the traders who accepted the Lagos State Government offer, they have purchased allocation forms, filled them; attached the necessary requirements. After which they handed their forms over to their representatives for onward submission.
Some of the documents attached to the forms were allocation letters, Lagos State Resident Registration Agency, LASRRA, registration slip and two passport photographs.
An official of the State Government, who chose to speak under condition of anonymity, in an interview with Vanguard on Friday, confirmed that sizeable number of the traders have collected their forms.
He noted that they have been instructed that traders of demolished Owonifari market should be given priority consideration in the allotment exercise before others.
Former executive chairman of the Market, Prince Issa Ogun-Kayode told Vanguard that he has submitted his form and was waiting for the government to commence allocation.
Why agreement between traders, govt delayed
Fact emerged weekend why the meeting between the traders and the government foot dragged, even after they agreed on the monthly rent.
It was learned that the former legal counsel to the traders, one Mr. Lasisi, advised them to accept the State Government offers. But while they were considering this suggestion, another lawyer approached the traders offering them better legal service which they accepted.
A reliable source told Vanguard that while the case dragged on, the traders raised another committee to meet with the government representatives with the aim to either consider withdrawing their case or continue.
At the meeting, the source told Vanguard that after accepting their demands, they introduced a N6, 000 monthly ‘Access Charge,’ which made the traders angry.
He noted that the traders rejected the ‘Access Charge,’ stating that they cannot part with such fund monthly.
His words; “With the current situation, we don’t have an option now than to accept the government offer because larger percent of us cannot afford the huge fund required to secure shop elsewhere.”
Oshodi demolition not targeted at Igbo traders —APC chieftain
Meantime, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Lagos State, Mr Nkechi Chukwueke yesterday said the demolition of the popular Owonifari market in Oshodi area of Lagos State is not targeted at any particular tribe, especially the Igbo.
Pouring encomiums on the State Government for taking the bold move, Chukwueke, who served as Special Assistant on Women Ethnic Group Mobilisation/Empowerment to former Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola said not only Igbo but traders from other ethnic groups were also affected in the exercise, which according to her “was carried out in good fate and in accordance with the rule of law.”
Ambode tasked on crime-freeLagos
She further urged the State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode to focus on his task of ensuring a crime-free Lagos that will be conducive for all and sundry.
“I have told a lot of my people from the East that the exercise was carried out in good fate by the State Government to rid Lagos of crime, restore sanity to the area and ensure the master plan of Lagos State is not tampered with.
“From facts available, the State Government gave enough notice to these traders and even provided alternative market for them to relocate to but many of them refused to go because they believe they won’t make much sales if they go to the new place.
“The truth is, we must rally round the Governor to ensure that Lagos works. The Governor means well for Lagos and he stands to gain nothing by demolishing people’s shops. There are laws of the land and it must be obeyed by all for the state to progress,” she said.
Also, Chairman of Conference 57, the umbrella body of Executive Secretaries of Local Government and Local Council Development Areas in Lagos State, Hon. Alabi Kolade David faulted those castigating the Governor over the demolition, insisting that the action was a positive step geared towards development and progress.
David said those calling the Governor names over the development were exhibiting ignorance and lack of foresight, as same was in line with the transformation plan of government for Oshodi.
Oshodi as international gateway
David, who described Oshodi as an international gateway to Lagos and indeed Nigeria, said the demolition was a positive step towards transforming Lagos into mega city compared to other cosmopolitan city-states of the world.
“What the Governor has done is a wonderful thing as it will ease off a lot of things in Oshodi. Those people that are saying negative things about the Governor are the people that do not want Lagos to transform into the megacity that we are all yearning for.
“That place is an international gateway to Nigeria. It is the face of Lagos and face of Nigeria because Lagos represents Nigeria. If we want development for Nigeria, if we want development for Lagos and if we want to be put in our rightful position, that market must be demolished,” David said.
While insisting that Lagos State has done well in providing markets for the people, David said as an LG boss, he has had course to mobilize people to apply for the numerous markets available in the State.