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Trade Fair Complex controversy: Buhari unaware of govt illegality – Traders lament

…Appeal to him to intervene

…The issues, fa cts,   figures

By Charles Kumolu, Deputy Features Editor

The controversy over the status of the traders in Trade Fair Complex is fraught with many ambiguities.

Ohanazoeze

While the traders claim there is a valid 49-year lease with an option of renewal, the Federal Government wants to concession the complex   through the Bureau of Public Enterprises ,BPE.

The situation has created panic among the traders, who said the government lacks the powers to concession what it had leased out.

Following the temporary closure of the market last Tuesday during a protest over the matter, Saturday Vanguard visited the place to get the true picture.

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A lot of people may wonder what makes the move to re-concession the place a big issue. Trade Fair Complex hosts many major markets which include Auto Spare Parts & Machinery Dealers Association ,ASPAMDA,  Balogun Business Association, BBA; Mandilas, Article, and African Tyre Village.

It is also a home to some companies. The market is believed to be the biggest in Africa with people coming to purchase goods from different parts of the continent. The market which is populated by Igbo traders is a home to billionaires.

Some major stakeholders, who spoke to Saturday Vanguard, offered their perspective on the matter.

FG should only concession areas it revoked—— Ohanazoeze, ex-ASPAMDA President

A Former President of Auto Spare Parts & Machinery Dealers Association, ASPAMDA, Chief Sunny Ohanazoeze, and President General of Ohaneze in Lagos State,   in this interview, explains to Saturday Vanguard why there is opposition to the plan to concession the Trade Fair Complex by the Federal Government.

There was a protest during the week which resulted in the temporary closure of the market and we learned that people protested against an alleged move by the Federal Government to Concession the Trade Fair Complex. As a stakeholder, tell us what the issues are?

The issue of concession was earlier muted by former President Olusegun Obasanjo.   There is no problem with concessions. It is a very good idea.   It is a means for the government to make money and collect more revenues. There were issues that have long been resolved. There were areas that were concessioned to the former concessionaire, Aulic Nigeria Limited, those areas, are the places in contention. If the Federal Government is talking about concession, they are talking about those areas that they concessioned to   Aulic.and later revoked.

These areas are the areas they are talking about and everybody is entitled to bid for them. But the areas concerning ASPMDA, Balogun Business Association, BBA, APT, Lake View, and others are not the areas to be given out because there are valid leases.   These areas I mentioned had been carved out of concession. We have no single problem in these areas.   If the federal government is talking about the entire Trade Fair Complex, they are trying to muddle things. They are trying to create a problem because ASPAMDA and the other areas I mentioned had been leased out. ASPMDA has been leased out for 45 years with an option of 50-year renewal.

What were the terms of the agreements?

In the agreement, it was stated that at the expiration of 45 years, the lease would be renewed for another 50 years. They gave us 49 years which could be renewed for another 50 years. It was stated in the agreement, which was duly signed by ASPMDA and Trade Fair Management Board. The agreement was signed in 1994.

This agreement was executed. By the virtue of the agreement, it is impossible to concession a property whose lease is yet to expire. Attempting to concession it amounts to an attempt to concession what belongs to someone else. The law doesn’t take that.   As far as we are concerned,   we don’t have any problem here because this place was leased to us. What some assumed as a problem is the government’s attempt to concession the area they revoked from Aulic. The government has the right to do that because the place had been revoked.

Was it the government that said the areas it wants to concession are the ones revoked?

That is how it should be. It is not an assumption because it is well stated and we went to court and there was a verdict when Arin Chigbo was the Director General of Bureau  of Public Enterprises, BPE. We went to court because there was no due diligence at the time and the place was carved out for us.   That was before they   concessioned some areas to Aulic.

I don’t know why they are saying they want to concession the whole place. They want to muddle things.   Maybe the consultant handling the process does not know what they are trying to do. They should come here and carry out a fact-finding exercise. They should also carry out consultation and see facts. I am urging them to ask for documents that were duly signed by the government and the representatives of the market associations before in order to know where to concession and where not to concession.

There seems to be a lot of misinformation about the issue, even some traders are insinuating that there could be political undertones in the matter. How do you react to that?

The question should go to the managers because I am no longer the President. It is natural for people to insinuate or react to developments in the market. Those reacting are investors in the market and any investor will react to issues that affect his business interest. It is the responsibility of the current leadership to explain to everyone that there is no problem.

When I was the President,   I went to court to stop Fashola’s move to start collecting revenue within the complex.   I told him that this place is owned by the federal government. I explained to him that we will only pay revenue to the Trade Fair Management Board. He refused and I went to court to stop him and that was the end of it. With adequate consultation among the stakeholders, the contentious issues can be settled.

This place is a money spinner and the biggest in West Africa but there appears to be total decay of all the access roads. Could that be one of the reasons for the external interest?

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The breakdown of infrastructure in the Trade Fair Complex is not peculiar to this place. It is a Nigerian thing. It is everywhere in Nigeria. I believe the new administration is trying to fix the problem. The woman in charge of the Trade Fair Complex is doing her best.   The roads are under construction because she met decayed infrastructure on the ground. She is trying to fix it and fixing any problem in this world is a gradual process.

She started well and she is doing well. If I may advice the federal government, I would urge them to drop any idea of concessioning the entire place because the Executive Director of Trade Fair Management Board is doing well.

What is the essence of the concession? Is it not to generate revenue? She collects a lot of revenue from the Trade Fair Complex and she remits to the federal government. The essence of concession is to develop and collect revenue. The government should just allow the woman to continue supervising the Trade Fair Complex instead of giving the place to a new manager.

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