Traders at Festac Second Gate Market popularly known as Agboju Market, are currently in tears following the demolition of the over 40 years old market on the allegation that it’s ‘too rough.’ Their grouse remains that after its planned reconstruction by the government, it will be out of their reach. This was the major reason they resisted its earlier demolition moves last year. CHIJIOKE IREMEKA reports
• Poor masses will not get a space after rebuilding –Traders
• Customers decry hike in prices after demolition of market
• We want to build more decent modern market –Iyaloja
• Market demolished for being ‘too rough’ –Govt
It was a like a war torn area at Agboju Market in Festac Town, Lagos, when the government moved in with two bulldozers and demolished the over 40-year-old market in Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area of Lagos State. During Sunday Telegraph’s visits to the scene, traders were seen running helter scelter in search of safe places to keep their wares and preserve their kiosks which escaped the bulldozers’ jaws while few others were selling off their wares.
The stalls made of metal containers and kiosks made of both wood and metals were among the demolished stalls. While some of the traders were well composed evacuating their wares, others were confused as they had no place to keep their wares and thus left them unattended. A yam seller, Mrs. Bolaji Aboderin, who sold yams adjacent, Malaki, a man who sells food drinks and other household articles, could not carry majority of her tubers of yam, which she abandoned at the time of Sunday Telegraph’s visits to the ill-fated market.
The event which started at about 8 O’clock in the morning, took majority of the traders unaware and this prompted a number of traders to call to their neighbours who were still far away from the market when the demolition commenced.
“To our greatest surprise and shock on that Friday morning, we were displaying our goods, when we started hearing, ‘pack, pack.’ We thought it was a child’s play, but lo and behold, before we could understand what was happening, the bulldozers started pulling down our stalls and kiosks,” said Onyekachi Ofordile.
He noted that as the bulldozers were destroying the market, those traders, who do not have places to keep their articles started selling some of their articles to the available customers, of course at give away prices. Sunday Telegraph also observed that the traders also sold the remnants of their kiosks to scavengers, especially the Hausas who were on the ground, picking some items and carting them away in their carts as well as in their wheelbarrows.
The government which demolished the market on the allegation that the market is too rough and hence, the need to rebuild a new one, assured the traders that the market woould soon be rebuilt, but the traders are nursing some fears that the market would be out of their reach when rebuilt.
The traders said that the same were the case of Tejuosho traders in Yaba who were promised to return to the market by former administration of Babatunde Raji Fashola but never happened. They insisted that none of those petty traders got a space in the newly constructed plazas.
The worse hit were the people who repaid their rent on Thursday before the market was demolished on Friday. Many will call it wrong timing that ends a man’s fortunes. The case of Mr. Frank Chuba, who just paid N1.2 million as a rent for two shops in the market comes handy when recounting traders’ losses at the demolished market. He was helped by his brother who had a shop in the market where he sells clothing to secure two shops of which its payment was made a week earlier.
He barely made sales before this misfortune came upon him, and of course, no refund of money after payment. “I’m finished. I don’t know why I didn’t delay this payment. How am I going to repay this money. I borrowed part of this rent, believing to repay when the business starts moving well.
Now look at me, see where I am. Who will I run to,” he said in his dismay. Mrs. Chukwurah Merije, who sells fresh tomatoes, told Sunday Telegraph that the officials of Amuwo Odofin Local Government visited the market and warned them to stop trading on the walk ways, which has been the case with the traders but didn’t know that they will come so sudden to demolish the market. She lamented that she had spent her money stocking her shops before the demolition came, now wondering what will happen to her articles.
Asked what went wrong at the market, Blessing Chijindu said: “Nobody knows exactly what is going on or what is going to happen. The leaders haven’t called a meeting to tell traders what is going on.
If indeed, there’s going to be a new market, how long will it take? As it is now, I am confused about what is happening.” Sequel to this, sympathisers were wondering why the demolition of the market and also wondering where they will be buying their foodstuffs pending the completion of the new market, which the government said would be built to make the area neater and more acceptable. “It’s not going to be easy, buying foodstuffs in Festac. Things used to be expensive when there is no crisis and how much more now that the market has been demolished.
Traders at the 23 Road Market will now take advantage of this to exploit customers,” said Mrs. Chigbuo Maduagwuna, who visited the market to by meat and soup ingredients and saw the market under brutal blades of the two bulldozers. For those who visited the market during the week, the prices of goods have gone up. The traders claimed that their wares were destroyed by the government. Though majority of the traders moved their goods out before demolition yet a few of them have their wares destroyed a long side by their making.
While one side was being demolished, the traders on the other side left their goods inside. According to Mrs. Esther A., who went shopping after the market was demolished, things were very expensive at the market, fol-lowing the demolition which sent a number of traders off the site, leaving behind few of them, who sell under giant umbrellas. “Those traders under the umbrellas are seriously exploiting people.
The meat I used to buy for N1, 000 before was what I bought for N1, 500. After that experience, I had to go over to the Old Ojo side of the market, where I bought the rest of the things that took me to the market,” she said. “A bucket of fresh tomatoes that they told me cost N1, 800, I got it for N1, 200 at the Old Ojo side,” mother of one added.
Mr. Ben Salako, who visited the market to buy freshwater fish for fish peppersoup was disappointed as he met the demolition of the market instead getting his demand. Also, many people told Sunday Telegraph that the reason the market was demolished went beyond what the government claimed.
They noted that the government wanted more revenue from the market and was working hard to achieve it through the Iyaloja General of Amuwo Markets. They alleged that the Iyaloja had wanted to demolish the market late last year, which resulted into serious battle that left some people wounded.
The traders resisted them with their bulldozers, they resisted them because, according to them, Iyaloja will not be fair in distributing the market after they would have finished building whatever they want there. They also claimed that Iyaloja wanted to be the sole landlady of the market which implies that every trader has to go to her for rent and remain at her mercy, suspecting foul play.
But the Iyaloja General of Amuwo Market, Mrs. Osinatu Adebayo, in her swift reaction said there was no foul play in the demolition of the market, saying that the market was too rough. She said, “No. No, it’s not true.
The problem is that the market is too rough and the state government called us to say they want to rebuild it to a modern market. “They would have finished building it but we’ve been delaying and begging for more time, ‘please allow us to sell for Christmas’ or ‘please let us sell for Easter.’
According to her, buying and selling will continue as usual, once the site has been cleared. Following this statement, Sunday Telegraph visited the cleared site again with a view to determining if buying and selling continued or not but it was observed that some of the traders have gone back to the site and continued trading under umbrellas. But the problem is that the road that connects the Badagry Expressway and Festac which allows passage of vehicles and motorcycles is totally blocked as the traders had taken over the road, selling their goods since the government had cordoned off the cleared site with roofing sheets to prevent trespass.
Earlier, the traders late last year, demonstrated planned demolition of the market and won but never knew that they won’t have their way in this outing. The traders, had, recently marched peacefully to the headquarters of Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area to protest the planned demolition of their stalls by the authorities. Some of the traders, who arrived at the market as early as 7am that day, were angered by the presence of bulldozers stationed at the main entrance to the market from the Mile 2 side of the Badagry Expressway.
The bulldozer’s position effectively blocked cars and indeed every other vehicle from gaining access to the popular market, thus preventing buying and selling and putting every economic activity on hold.
The traders, who had arrived earlier, quickly mobilised other members by calling out those still on their way from home and those outside the vicinity to inform them of what was going on and urging them to come and join in the protest.
And before long, the market was brimming with traders. By 9am, when over 300 members had arrived, the Chairman of the Market Association, Mr. Fidelis Nwagbo, and members of the executive then marched to the office of the Chairman of Amuwo Odofin Local Government to register their anger and vehemently opposed the forceful take-over of the market by the council. Some of the traders also wondered why government officials always come with threats to demolish the market only during the Christmas and New Year festival.
Even meat sellers who usually arrive earlier than the rest in order to have sufficient time to slaughter the livestock meant for the day’s business were all standing helplessly watching the scene.
Nwagbo, popularly called Ubama, said the traders had been having a running battle with some individuals, including the Iyaloja, Mrs. Osinatu Adebayo, one Ethelbert Okereke, aka Ogbuagu, an unnamed developer, the chairman of the council, Dr. Valentine Buraimoh, and the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) to take over the market, demolish the stalls and build permanent structures.
He confirmed that when in August there were threats to burn down the market, the traders informed their solicitors, Chidi Njoku and Co., of Vintage Chambers, Festac Town, who wrote a petition to the appropriate authorities.
According to him, the parcel of land housing the market is part of the buffer zones of Festac Town, not meant for permanent structures nor for sale by either the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) or any individual
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