Laide Raheem, Abeokuta
Itoku, a community in Abeokuta, Ogun State, is popularly known for the making of Adire and Kampala, indigenous fabrics of Egba. The community is reputed to have been the genesis of traditional trade, with the making of tie and dye clothes such as eleko, batik and Kampala.
Apart from being the location for the production of this local fabric, Itoku also serves as a market where fabrics in different designs and colours are sold.
But most of the shops and dying centres in the market were demolished in 2012 by the immediate past administration of Amosun to pave way for the construction of a flyover and expansion of Sapon-Kemta-Itoku Road. Due to this, many lost their shops and stores.
Government built modern complexes to replace the demolished shops, and were inaugurated during the 40 years anniversary of the state in 2016. Some of the Adire traders who could not afford the shops moved their businesses there, while others continued to display their wares by the roadside.
Though some of these traders later claimed that it was not as if they could not afford the payment, but the politics played in allocating the shops, edged them out. Their despair, however, subsided as the government later announced that it would construct an Adire Mall at the market, perhaps to cater for those who missed out in the allocation of shops at the shopping complex.
To them, the 215-shop terraced Adire Mall would not only satisfy their yearnings, but the mall would give them advantage of displaying their wares and selling them. Government, through the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure, commenced the sales of forms at the rate of N10,000 each to over 800 prospective shop owners at the new mall.
On Monday, May 27, the ministry allocated the shops to 55 out of 215 to the traders. This development, Daily Sun learnt, did not go down well with traders whose hopes of getting shops was dashed. They alleged that the leaders of the market connived with the ministry to short-change them.
However, indication that the allocation of shops at the mall might have a snag emerged when the then Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Lekan Adegbite, informed the traders that the mall was not exclusively for Adire and Kampala makers. A trader, Adegbite, claimed the marketers told them that there were pressure and demands from non-Adire sellers, to be allocated shops in the new mall.
This deflated their hopes. The traders were further disappointed and exasperated to discover that out of 215 shops, only 55 were allocated. Others were discovered to have been reserved, despite that over 800 applied for the shops.
Scores of protesters stormed the GRA Ibara, Abeokuta residence, of former governor Olusegun Osoba and national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), to protest what they termed lopsided allocation of the shops at the Adire Mall. The protesters who carried placards with various inscriptions sought his intervention and that of the then governor-elect, Dapo Abiodun, in the matter.
Speaking on behalf of the protesters, Mrs Ladun Amode, accused the leadership of the Adire Market of allocating the shops to themselves and their cronies. She added that some of them (leaders) got at least three shops, while many members got none. She alleged that a former top government official reserved more than 70 shops for himself, and that the protesters were in his residence to protest the alleged injustice.
Another protester, Oluwole Yemisi, said she was shocked to have discovered that her name was not among those who got shops at the mall. Two of her shops were demolished, including the one she paid seven years rent, during the road construction at Itoku.
She added that effort to get a shop at the first shopping complex was frustrated by the market leaders. The second attempt to get a shop at the new mall was also made impossible by those she termed “selfish market leaders.”
In his comment, Abiodun Raji, disclosed that he and his two wives selling Adire at Itoku collected forms but none was allocated shop. He explained that their three shops gave way to the road construction and hope of getting at least a shop was dashed. He pointed accusing fingers at market leaders who he alleged cornered most of the shops meant for their members.
Akinode Oluwagbemiga claimed that those of them who were not card-carrying members of the Allied People’s Movement (APM) were denied allocation of shops, while Adire traders, particularly leaders who supported APM during the last general elections were allocated shops. He mentioned that there was a particular market leader whose 10 of his family members were allocated shops, while those perceived as political opponents were denied.
Market leaders react
The Babaloja of the Adire/Kampala Market, Wasiu Erinfolami, described all the allegations as untrue: “No market leader got more than one shop. Not all the leaders got shops as alleged by the protesters. When the mall was being constructed to be sold at N1million each to be paid over three years, many of the Adire sellers believed that the mall was exclusively for them. But it was later discovered that others who were members of the market would be allocated shops, the situation became worrisome.
“The leaders met with the then Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure to iron the issue out, but he made it clear that the mall would not be for Adire dealers alone. The commissioner asked us to compile names of our members and we compiled about 100 names. We encouraged them to purchase forms as instructed by the government and hoped for the best.
“Since the shops were up to 215, we had thought that the 100 members would get shops, at least. But when the ministry came and reeled out about 55 names, we were all shocked. Even me, I got just a shop, while my wife who also purchased form could not get.
“It is true that some of the shops were indicated to be reserved during the allocation exercise, but we the leaders of the market did not influence the exercise or collude with the ministry officials to exclude any member. In fact, not all the leaders in market got shops. And if the protesters are sure of their claims that we were able to be allocated more than one shop each, they should be bold enough to mention the names and back it up with evidence.”
Also, the Balogun of the market, Badmos Zulikhat, denied any below-the-table dealings: “The shops were allocated randomly by the ministry in charge without having physical contact with the applicants.” He expressed his disappointment over the protest and allegations levelled against the market leaders, challenging them to present documentary evidence to prove their various allegations.
The Babalaje of the Adire Market, Ogunfididun Micheal, noted the protest was uncalled for: “Though it was painful that many traders could not get shops despite collecting forms, the protesters should have known that the shops could not go round as forms collected exceeded the number of shops to be allocated.
“Several attempts were made by the market leaders to ensure at least 100 shops were allocated Adire dealers, but the then government insisted in giving out about 55 so far out of 215.” He, however, appealed to those who are yet to get their shops to exercise patience and hope that their grievances would be addressed by the new administration in the state.