…Right here now is the new site (Imota) that we are relocating Mile 12 Market to. So, our new commodity market would take off from here, and so I like to give the Ministry of Physical Planning the directive to commence activities here within the next one week.
We are committed to doing this. We know it is in the interest of all Lagosians that we relocate Mile 12 Market here. The marketers themselves have agreed; the onus is now on us to ensure that we deliver this new market within the next six months —Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, April 12, 2016.
By Josephine Agbonkhese, Ebun Sessou, Anino Aganbi & Chris Onuoha
THERE is probably no bonafide Lagos housewife who has not visited or heard of Mile 12, the depot market upon which thousands of households in the metropolis depend for fresh and cheap produce.
The planned relocation of Lagos’ popular Mile 12 Market, therefore, generated so much uproar early and mid 2016 that by now, one would have expected the market to be sitting at its proposed new site, the sleepy town of Imota, and not the Ketu axis of Lagos where it has been in the last 40 years.
About the market: Over the years, Mile 12 Market has evolved into a depot of sorts where all grains, tubers, fruits and vegetable coming into Lagos is headed. It’s a market reputed for round-the-year availability of all kinds of fresh fruits and vegetables. Also, tubers (yams, sweet and Irish potatoes, etc), grains (maize, guinea corn, rice and beans) are sold at amazing prices, more or less at giveaways. If there is anything lower than whole sale, it’s the definition of how things are sold at Mile 12 Market, according to customers.
It is, therefore, no surprise that almost on a daily basis, dozens of truck-loads of different commodities from various parts of the country, are off-loaded at the market which is strategically situated in an area that is the primary gateway from other parts of the country into the hub of the Nigerian economy.
Thus, for many years, the market created a lot of traffic bottlenecks for motorists and commuters who ply the Mile 12-Ikorodu Road, until recently when that was cushioned by the reconstruction of the Lagos-Ikorodu highway by the Fashola administration.
Relocation plan: In the past, successive governments in Lagos have attempted to move the Mile 12 Market, the state’s largest food market, from its present location, but such plans have always failed. The immediate past administration of Mr. Babatunde Fashola, the current Minister of Power, Works and Housing, also made another attempt to move the market.
Fashola, it was gathered, attempted to move the market to Parafa, a small community in Ikorodu North Local Council Development Area, but the effort was unsuccessful even though he had argued the relocation was in pursuit of its mega city project.
Market crisis and new relocation plan
In March 2016, a crisis engulfed the Agiliti/Maidan Orile community in Mile 12, in which many people were killed and even more wounded. A number of buildings were razed during the crisis, which led the current administration to temporarily close the market and impose a curfew on the area. Leaders of the Arewa Perishable Foodstuff Market Association, Mile 12, and other market leaders dissociated themselves from the crisis, which they said occurred a few kilometres from the market.
Shortly after that incident, the state governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, announced plans by his administration to relocate the market to Imota. He went to inspect the new location and said work would be concluded at the new site and the market would be moved there in six months, October 2016 to be precise.
It would, however, be recalled that shortly after the temporary closure, the Kano State Governor, Dr. Abdullah Ganduje, and his predecessor, Senator Musa Kwankwanso, came to Lagos and met separately with Governor Ambode.
“Though the outcome of their meetings was not made public, many believe the visits were not unconnected with the situation at Mile 12 since Northern traders comprise a vast majority of the ethnic groups in the market.
Since then, like a butterfly’s cough, not much has been seen or heard about that overhyped-relocation exercise ten months after the governor made the announcement. The market too has since been reopened, and normalcy has returned to the area. News reports have also emerged that residents of Imota have been on an anxious wait for the market to be moved to their sleepy town – apparently for the benefits of economic activities in the area.
Meanwhile, the state’s Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Steve Ayorinde, sometime last year, made efforts to convince the public that the government had not discarded the plans to relocate the market, as was being rumoured in some quarters, explaining that there were processes that must be followed, assuring that the project would be done.
‘Relocation plans still on course’
Reaffirming Ayorinde’s statement when Woman’s Own visited the state House of Assembly, the Chairman, House Committee on Physical and Urban Planning, David Setonji, representing Badagry Constituency 2, disclosed that the Ministry of Physical and Urban Planning has been working assiduously at the new site to ensure that the necessary infrastructure are provided; and that the work is near completion.
“It is not true that the state government has abandoned the plan. It is working towards its realization and I can assure you that the market would be relocated in due time,” he said. On the activities on the new site, he said, “Infrastructure has been provided, including good road network, water, electricity among others, so that the challenges we are having in the present market will not replicate itself in the new location. So, everything necessary has been provided by government to ensure that the new place is conducive.
“I know the relocation might be a challenge but in the long run, all stakeholders will enjoy it. I believe, people will be happy about the new location. I cannot precisely say when the work would be completed but as soon as it is completed, the market would be moved.
In his opinion, the Chairman, House Committee on Environment, Saka Fafunmi, said, relocating the market is the best thing that can happen to Lagos State, especially as it will be easier for security operatives to address the usual breakdown of law and order in the area.
Environmentalists take on relocation
Although the planned relocation had also been faced with heavy criticisms from marketers, concerned environmental activists who appear to have also been in endless wait for the relocation, say government should promptly address further delay.
As one of such activists, Dr. (Mrs) Williams Esther Samuel, National Vice-President, Institute of Safety Professionals of Nigeria, who spoke to Woman’s Own, puts it: “Mile 12 Market poses a lot of hazards, the biggest being the noise pollution and poor management of waste.
In a large market place like this, all kinds of things thrive, especially criminals, miscreants and others evil activities, because of its nature. If government can relocate the market to a safer place away from the residential area, it will help reduce noise pollution, traffic congestion and also improve sanity condition in the area.
When environmental sanity is observed, people benefit immensely. The idea of politicizing issues that concern health should not come to bear.”
Bottlenecks: Beyond doubt, even though this isn’t the first time the Lagos State government will be relocating a major market, Mile 12’s case seems particularly marked with a lot of bottlenecks and politics. This is particularly when one recalls the number of markets that have over the years been relocated as part of urban renewal strategies. Such markets include Balogun, Tejuosho and Alaba. Oshodi Market was also moved in 2016.
Woman’s Own visits Mile 12
When Woman’s Own, in an attempt to find answers to the mysteries surrounding the relocation, visited the market three days ago, Shehu Usman, Financial Secretary, Mile 12 Market, said things were currently going smoothly at the market and that nothing concerning relocation was in the burner. “I doubt if such idea is really going to take place, because the impression we have so far is that things are normal and cordial.
“In this market, there are numerous ethnic tribes trading here; Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa and other tribes. International bodies are in support of the way we operate here. We have a good understanding with them to make and turn this place to a modern and standard market. This market is located away from obstructive channels like powerline, rail or road channels, including urban developments. What we really want is for government to come and construct standard structures befitting a modern market. The structure you are seeing so far is what the marketers put on ground since the inception of the market.
Rockefeller Foundation and World Bank: “But international bodies like Rockefeller and the World Bank have come to seek our consent to develop the market to a standard format. Even Lagos State has given them consent to go ahead and liaise with us to improve the present structure to modern standards. We are very optimistic that this market will be upgraded to international standards instead of being relocated. If this is done, I believe people from all over the world will come to Mile 12 to shop for perishable items,” Shehu explained.
Upgrading to international standards
He, however, assured that the marketers are law abiding citizens of Nigeria and will always abide by the rules of the state government, adding, “If government says we should relocate, we will because it’s in its capacity to do so.
“But what I am saying is that we should not be asked to move to another fallow land like the one our forefathers met here over 40 years ago and suffered to develop. Infrastructure should be adequately provided before such move should be championed.
Law and order: “On the issue of security, inside this market, we have law. If you fight here, we suspend you for three months. Some of the problems you hear of are caused by miscreants who fight outside the market and when they fight, government will close the market without thorough investigation. Everyone here transacts business like one family.”