The understanding between government and the traders took on a sour note last weekend, when the alleged alleged that the council authorities moved in bulldozers, backed with heavily armed security men and over 200 Area boys (thugs) to bring down the market with less than 24 hours notice.
To add insult to a festering injury, the market leader, revealed that the Executive Secretary of the Council, Jide Bello, coaxed them into signing an “eviction agreement before he would unlock the market for us to remove our goods, when he knew that the rain was already damaging our goods.”
The leader of the traders association, Mr. Kingsley Ikechukwu Ogunor, narrated how they received eviction notice on June 29 evening, and the following morning, the Mushin local government descended on the market with bulldozers, to pull down their shops.
According to him, the thugs started removing the roofing sheets knowing that it was rainy season, and that caused a great damage and loss to their goods.
“Our position on this remodeling of the market is very clear. We are not against it. We like development, but we are asking that we should be carried along and should be part of the discussion on this mater, so that at the end we should not be given the short end of the stick, as it was done to the traders who had shops at Jejuosho market, Yaba,” Ogunor said.
Tracing the genesis of the crisis, the market leader said, the problem started when the Mushin local government showed intention to remodel the market by demolishing it, without carrying the traders along and also to give them enough notice to remove their goods.
Ogunor said, the land initially belonged to the Owoyemi family. The family he said was in court with Mushin local government for about 15 years, over the land and won; and has Certificate of Occupancy.
According to him, Owoyemi family could not fully take possession of the land, as the LG went to the State House of Assembly, where a resolution was passed, giving the Council 60 percent of the market, while the Owoyemi family was given 40 percent.
Ogunor said: “Under normal circumstance, Mushin does not have the power to lock up the whole market. Even if it wanted to lock up the market, it should lock up the 60 percent that it is in control of.
“ So, when the idea came to the council to rebuild the market, they sent notice to inform us. When I attended the meeting on June 15, I told them it wasn’t a project that you just start off immediately, that proper consultations should be made.”
The market leader pointed out that there are about 300 shops in the market. Sixty percent of the shops, he said, were built by Mushin, while the rest were built by individuals on the Owoyemi family’s land.
“There was no official communication from Mushin that the 40 percent Owoyemi land is not included in this exercise, they just wanted to demolish everything.
“We are not against rebuilding the market, our position is that we should be carried along in the remodeling so that we would not be in the same boat with Tujuosho traders, who after the remodeling of the markets, the stalls were shared among politicians and no allocation was made to the traders who were there.
“If everybody is carried along in this exercise, there will be some level of assurances that they will have their shops thereafter.
“We don’t want what happened to Tejuosho traders to happen to us here in Ladipo. Tejuosho was demolished, and the people who had shops were never allocated shops. It was people from outside that bought all the shops. The initial tenants all lost out. It was very pathetic.”
On how the market was unlocked, Ogunor said, it was reopened under the condition that we will allow them to develop it in phases.
“Like I said before, the agreement we signed was under duress. You cannot remove someone’s roof and ask him to hold on for two days or three days.
We signed those documents to make sure that the place was reopened for us to salvage our goods that were on the verge of destruction or damage by the rain because the roofs of the buildings had been removed and the weather has not been friendly as it has been raining everyday or every other day.
“They came on June 29, which was Monday, and served us notice paper that they were going to close down the market and demolish it, without indicating the date it would take effect.
“I don’t know how to describe our experience the following day, being June 30, when the council invaded the market with bulldozers, over 200 thugs and armed security personnel and they started removing the roofs of the buildings, and thereafter locked it.
“When I called the Executive Secretary, of the council, Jide Bello, he said he was in a meeting with the deputy governor in Alausa and that he would be in office by 4pm.
“By this time, tension had built up and there was the fear of more rain damaging more of our goods.
“Before we went to his office, the traders were on my neck asking me to do whatever that was possible for them to remove their goods.
“ So, when we came to the executive secretary’s office, he said that he can’t unlock the market unless we sign an agreement that we have agreed to demolish it. This was like facing the devil and the deep blue sea. The most important thing then was to salvage our goods before they were all destroyed by the rain.”
He told Saturday Sun that they were still counting their losses, even as he said the local government authority is still very adamant on developing the market without carrying the traders along.
“ As at now, we don’t even know the developer . All these times, it was just the representatives of the developer that we have been seeing. We want to see the developer so that we have one-on-one discussion with him. It has always been, what we discussed with the representatives that they would convey to him and bring reply. There is no coherence, and no meeting point in our discussions.
“Just as I said, we are still counting our losses. As the roofs were removed, it also rained and the thugs broke into people’s shops and made away with cash. For now , we are still compiling our losses, but so far our loss runs into several millions of naira, as damages done by the rain and cash stolen by Area boys.”
Ogunor implored Governor Akinwunmi Ambode to intervene, call the local council to order; and instruct him to open a proper channel for discussion so that the interest of the traders can be protected against the whims and caprices of the said developer.
He noted that ample time should be given for the traders to organise themselves and make sure that everybody is carried along.
Thirty days, he said is not even enough for that, as nobody is kicking against development, “but what we are saying is that we should be carried along.”
Meanwhile, the Executive Secretary of the Council, has debunked the claim by the traders that their shops were demolished and closed.
A press release on the matter sent by the council’s Information Officer, Olusegun Akinyemi, stated that the traders were notified through a letter addressed to their leader that the market would be reconstructed in order to meet the mega city status of Lagos State.
The market, the statement stated, belongs to Mushin Local Government Area, adding that “under a democratic structure, we have the right to rebuild our market. The traders were fully notified and carried along. We have had series of meetings with the leadership of the market on the intention of government concerning the market .
“Ladipo main market is one of the sections within the Ladipo spare parts market. Only a section is being reconstructed, not the entire Ladipo market as being rumoured.”
From the statement, because of the remodeling, the council has not been collecting toll from the traders since January, and dispelled the fears of the traders that they would be shortchanged.
The statement further reads: “ Since the beginning of this year, we did not collect market tolls from them which was one of the outcomes of the meetings we held with them, as a relief and to re-enforce our determination to rebuild the market.
“No trader in that market will suffer. We have told them to present their original letters of allocation. All the former occupiers of the market will be considered before any person is allowed to pay for the shops.
“One of the ways to cushion the effects of the reconstruction is that the contractor will do the job in phases; while they remain in the market doing their buying and selling, construction will be going on, while they shift away, immediately it is completed, they will move in and construction work will start at another part of the market.
“One of the challenges facing the traders is the leadership tussle between their leaders. We explained every government’s intention to the leadership but it appears they do not have enough confidence and trust in their own leaders.”
The statement painted a gory situation of the market, which it said needs urgent attention, as, it has become an eyesore.
“What we are doing is in the interest of the government and the traders. We are partners in progress. We are law-abiding. Government will ensure that due process is followed. We have assured the traders that Mushin Local Government remains a home to all of them. Without them, there can be no government. Within the next five to six years, the constructions would have been over. Initially, the traders rejected the contractors we engaged to do the job, but agreed to cooperate with the one handling the job now.” -The Sun