Traders at the Ile-Epo market, Abule Egba, Agbado/Oke-Odo Local Council Development Area (LCDA) of Lagos State, have sent a save our souls (SOS) plea to Governor Akinwunmi Ambode.
The traders are begging the governor to protect them from being evicted from the market where they earn their daily bread.
The traders, members of the Araromi Oke-Odo Market Traders Association, Ile-Epo, Oke-Odo, Abule Egba, alleged that council officials and some persons from the community had, on several occasions, raided the market, urging them to vacate the place because it had been slated for demolition.
The traders further alleged that the crisis in the market was fuelled by the tussle for revenue collection, which had pitted their leaders against the Agbado Oke-Odo LCDA. The traders insisted that the council could not use thugs to collect revenue in the market, noting that the place was not a motor park.
This refusal, it was alleged, had angered a former LCDA chairman who on many occasions stormed the market with thugs, warning the traders to pack out because it had been slated for demolition. Daily Sun learnt that the traders resisted the move and went to court to challenge the eviction order. It was gathered that the court subsequently restrained the local government officials from evicting the traders.
But trouble started again on Wednesday, February 21, 2018. Despite the court order and the directives of various stakeholders, including the Iyaloja of Lagos, Mrs. Folashade Tinubu-Ojo, the LCDA officials, on that day, allegedly stormed the market in company with soldiers and thugs and erected a sign post that the market was to be demolished.
Speaking to the Daily Sun at their Ile Epo secretariat after the alleged invasion, general secretary of the traders’ association, Mr. William Falana, recalled that it was the fourth time that the LCDA was attempting to demolish the market.
Said he: “The last time they invaded the market, they shot and wounded some of us. The then commissioner for environment in the state intervened and a meeting of the market leaders, the LCDA chairman and the developer was arranged so that the matter could be settled amicably. But the LCDA chairman refused to listen to us and the meeting was deadlocked.
“The matter is still in court, only for them to come again, insisting on erecting a signpost that they wanted to demolish the market.
“The properties are ours. We erected them by ourselves and with our money. And we are saying that the total cost of the properties is N10 billion. We are not opposed to the demolition if they can pay us the sum.
“But they have come again. So, we are begging Governor Ambode to come to our aid because we know he is not the one sending them as they claim. If the market is demolished, more than 40,000 people in the community would be jobless. This is a dangerous trend, considering the suffering that Nigerians are already going through,” Falana said.
Chairman of the Igbo Traders Association, Mr. Linus Njoku, and his Hausa counterpart, Mallam Lawal Galadinma, corroborated Falana’s submission.
“We are begging Governor Ambode to wade into this matter. We know he is not the brain behind the alleged demolition as they claim. We are all APC members and we want our governor to win a second term,” they said.
When contacted in his office, the current chairman, Agbado/Oke-Odo LCDA, Dr. Augustine Adeoye Arogun, said all that the traders were saying was false.
“I never went to the market with soldiers to erect a signpost for the market to be demolished. Governor Ambode believes the market does not meet up with the megacity status.
“We have had a series of meetings with stakeholders, including the state commissioner for environment. The contractor was in the market recently to erect a signboard indicating how the market was to be given a facelift in phases. It is not total demolition of the market, but we want to give it a facelift in phases. The construction work is going to be made in four or five phases. As soon as a phase is finished, the marketers will move in there once another phase is started. This is what will happen until the whole market is completed.
“The properties they are talking about belong to government. Immediately the governor gives us the go-ahead for the facelift, we will commence work,” he said.