“We are dying of hunger,” these were the words of retired police and active officers’ wives at Pedro Police Station market located in the Somolu area of Lagos State.
The market was said to have been one of those built across the country by the Police Officers Wife Association, (POWA); but unfortunately, the apex body of the association from the Force Headquarters in Abuja ordered every trader in the market – serving, retired police wives and even civilians – to vacate the location.
The traders described the action of the wife of the former Inspector General of Police, IGP Adamu Muhammed for asking them to leave the market in order to pave the way for them to be redesigned and developed, at this point in time with the harsh economic situation of the country, as “wickedness”.
It would be recalled that after the expiration of the two weeks grace given to the traders in the market a mother of three, identified simply as ‘Mama Esther’, collapsed, after her shop was demolished by the POWA officials. It was learnt that the woman was not around when her shop was pulled down, but on her arrival when she saw the level of the damage done to her shop and goods inside she fainted.
Our correspondent learnt that it was one Mrs. Takobi, a retired police officer’s wife that led other officials of the POWA from Abuja to the market on Wednesday April 7, claiming they were sent by the wife of the immediate past Inspector General of Police, IGP Adamu Muhammed to demolish the market and rebuild it using a developer.
It was learnt that when some serving police officer’s wives refused to vacate their shops in the market, the POWA officials threatened to redeploy their husbands to the war-torn area in the northern part of the country, if they did not comply.
According to a trader, Mrs. Dupe Audu, it was a surprise to every one of them on the fateful day when they saw the POWA officials in the market telling them move out. She said after the POWA officials had gone round the market, they then: “Came back to address us saying that we should all vacate our shops within two weeks because they want to rebuild it to a befitting one.
“When we appealed to them to give us time to get a better place, we were told to leave or else our goods would be thrown out and the shops would be demolished on our heads.
“We thought it was a joke. We continued with our businesses without nursing any fear, not until after the expiration of the two weeks that the officials came again and asked us to pay N3.5 million to retain our shops, but with the situation of the country where do we get such money from, even our husbands who are supposed to assist us how much are they earning?
“We are dying of hunger, we have been sacked from the market and we have nowhere to go.” She added: “I don’t know where they want us to move to, some of us just paid our rents, and we have people who are depending on us, including our age parents and siblings. Unfortunately, while, we were searching for an alternative place the POWA officials came into the market and started pulling down our shops. “
They threatened the wives to transfer their husbands to the war zones in the North if they didn’t leave the market peacefully or they would be forcefully removed.” She told New Telegraph that it was the threat of their husbands being sent to the Northern part of the country that actually persuaded many of them to start removing their roofs in order to pave way for the demolition by the POWA officials.
“We have been ridiculed to nothing, our husbands were once policemen we want the present Inspector General of Police (IGP) Baba Alkali Usman to come to our aid, we have no money to rent another shop, what we are selling in the market is to support our husbands and take care of our children,” she lamented.
While, another trader, Mrs. Taiwo Olushoga, also said the POWA officials are “wicked people, because where did they expect them to raise money to rent another shop within two weeks”.
She said she had been in the market for many years, the shops are in good condition, they are not in distress or dilapidated, so why the demolition. “We are all Nigerians, we should have sympathy for each other, they should leave us alone in the market we want peace.
“Some of us are widows, our husbands had served the country meritoriously, what we are selling here is to assist our children. We are also told to pay N700, 000 if we want to get the shops back after they had rebuilt it.
“My question is, where did they expect me to get the money from, I can’t afford such amount of money now! With the situation of things in the county now I can’t get the money they should help us. The inspector General of Police, Baba Alkali should come to our aid; we don’t want to die of hunger.”
Another woman, Mrs. Zainab Busari, said now that they have been asked to move out of the market, they have no money to rent new shops. She said the market, the POWA officials claimed they wanted to rebuild, is in perfect condition. “I don’t know why they are subjecting us into these problems we are all Nigerians, we are not foreigners why are they maltreating us?
“When the POWA officials stormed the market on the fateful day, it was like a war, everybody was running to prevent their goods from being vandalised by the POWA officials, few minutes later, we saw some people who came with them and started removing the roofs of the shops in the market.
“They pulled down structures, while, those who could not move their goods on time went to pick them up from the road. “We were given an official notice of two weeks; we were told verbally, that they are coming back in two weeks’ time, when they told us verbally we never took them serious not until we saw them in the market with the Divisional Police Officer of Pedro Police Station who accompanied the POWA officials to carry out the demolition exercise. “We are not saying we are not leaving the market, but we should be given more time to get a better place, we are suffering.” When our correspondent visited the market, after the demolition it was observed that the POWA officials had erected a makeshift place for the displaced traders to sell their wares temporarily pending on when the construction of the market would be completed.
And whoever that can afford it. A battery charger in the market, who simply gave his name as ‘Oyela’, wondered how POWA officials expected them to carry out their trade under the makeshift stalls without roofs, especially now that it is the rainy season.
He said: “Even before the arrival of the POWA officials, the market leader had called everybody that we should leave the market. When we asked the market leaders who sent them we were told it was from the wife of the immediate past Inspector General of Police, IGP Adamu Muhammed through the office of her husband.
We thought it was lie not until we saw the POWA officials with some people who were removing the roof of some shops in the market.” When contacted, the Lagos State command Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) CSP Muyiwa Adejobi said he was not aware of such directives adding that the Commissioner of Police,
Hakeem Odumosu did not sanction the demolition. The Force Police Public Relations Officer (FPPRO), CP Frank Mba did not answer his calls and also did not reply the text messages sent to him for their reaction.