By Ebunoluwa Sessou
The Executive Director, Lagos International Trade Fair Complex, Mrs. Lucy Omosefe-Ajayi has described the recent allegations that the complex has been taken over by National Leader of the All Progressive Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and his daughter, Iyaloja General Mrs Folashade Tinubu-Ojo, as a blatant lie, void of any iota of truth. Adding that the complex is intact and operators and investors have nothing to fear.
Ajayi in an attempt to clear the air on the alleged spurious claim, said that she was right within the LITFC premises prior to the shut down by the operators some weeks back to protest any likelihood of concessioning the trade fair in its entirety. A development they claim was in contravention of the lease agreement the major operators entered into with government.
She disclosed this during Vanguard International Women’s Day Round Table oragnised by Vanguard Media Limited which took place at Radisson Blu, Victoria Island, Lagos recently, while responding to issues that bothers on women and development of the country.
It will be recalled that some group of protesters mounted the Trade Fair complex recently demoing for explanation by the federal government on why it decided to concession the complex to an individual.
Painting the real picture of the issue, Ajayi said, the daughter of the National Leader of the All Progressive Congress, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu never muted such rather it is a mere insinuation by political jobbers to spark up unnecessary rivalry in the state.
“Madam Folashade Tinubu Ojo never had any hand in this, they were mere insinuations peddled around by mischief makers, our party APC is together and we are in control in LITFC, the transformation here is a testimony in the lips of the operators and those who have one or two things doing here. So the claim is baseless.
“On the Igbo thing, Lagos remain an accommodating host they were never discriminated against, rather they are also stakeholders here so they need not fear.
“The true picture of what transpired here on March 18th was that the stakeholders embarked on a demonstration at the Trade Fair Complex over a rumour making the round that the complex was going to be given to a concessionaire.
“They were protesting the rumoured concession. The PDP government did the concession; which ought to be for 30 years but the new APC administration led by President Mohammadu Buhari aborted it after nine years without a considerable turn over. But in one year we have given the Federal Government about N1bn,” she said.
“The previous handler breached all the contractual agreements, the first thing, it was a developmental concession. The revenue generation is another, he didn’t develop anything.
“Secondly he made lives unbearable for the stakeholders here and thirdly he didn’t remit a dime to the Federal Government. So they had to revoke the contract after nine years.
“Clearly they never wanted a repeat of the harrowing experience they had way back while the concessionaire held sway.
“The whole market people came out, I got a wind of it earlier and I had to come as early as 5:55am so as to prevent a breakdown of law and order. I had to come out to address the crowd.
“I had to beg them. They raised so many issues. One was that they said Lagos State wants to take over the place and be collecting fees from them while they were already paying to the Federal Government.
“They also raised issues about the concession of the place. Those were the two major issues. I calmed their frayed nerves that there is no cause for alarm and that I will talk to my boss.
“I told them Buhari government leads a friendly government and will look into it and they should be calm and go back to their business premises,” she said.
On the rumoured concession she said, “Well, I won’t say there shouldn’t be a concession. What I would say is that there should be the presence of the government in this place which we gave the concessioner to do but he didn’t so we had to revoke the agreement in August 2017.
“The management board I superintend took over in November 2017, so that means we have been here for one year and four months. If I’m not mistaking the first thing we did was to call a meeting of the stakeholders and to tell them the state of things and to tell them Buhari means well for them and that we are here to find out what went wrong,” she said.
According to her most people didn’t know this was a Federal parastatal, this position is an equivalence of a DG. Mine is ED/CEO, meaning I can defend a budget. Some of my colleagues are just ED and not CEO. They now see things differently.
On the concessionaire who failed to remit fund to the Federal coffers, Ajayi said only the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE) could answer what would happen about the case.
“I think BPE can answer. When I came I took him to EFCC, he was detained for three weeks and they left him on health ground. Mine was to take him there; I am not a debt collector.
“Since they have successfully taken him out of my way, mine is to focus. BPE was given the assignment to make him pay the N6.5bn he owed,” she said.
She cited effort put in place to check the debtor who some feel have dangerous mien to the system; Ajayi said she has put security in place to forestall any breakdown of law and order around the complex.
Some of the concerned operators also clarify the issues, Chairman of the Mechanic Village, Mr. Muritala Mohammed Olawuyi he gave reasons for the protest at the Trade Fair Complex.
“We were protesting because we do not want to experience what we experienced under the concession again. He collected money from us without remitting to the Federal Government. For which we were still in the Federal High Court.
“Our protest now is that we want to deal directly with the Federal Government. We don’t want any concession again. He took money from us, he didn’t pay the government and he wanted to throw us out. We don’t want that experience again,” he said.
Another stakeholder, Mr. Tony Obi, President of Balogun Business Association, BBA, Trade Fair Complex in his own view unequivocally declared that the market is tired of concession regime.
“We have different reasons for staging the protest. We have 13 different markets here. Now we are not against the government concession policy but what we are praying for is that they should remove the stakeholder out of it.
We have developed the areas given to us. If they want to give out the other remaining areas, they can, but they should leave the area we are using alone. We have developed it. We are also praying they should give us the offer of first refusal, “he pleaded.