Traders at the Rauf Aregbesola Market, Iyana Ipaja, Lagos, have appealed to the Lagos State Government to intervene in the impasse between them and Alimosho Local Government Council.
The local government on Friday threatened to eject the traders to pave way for the demolition of the structures to upgrade the market.
The traders told the News Agency of Nigeria in Lagos on Sunday that this was the second attempt by the local government authorities to forcefully eject them from the market.
According to the traders, in 2012 when the market was under Egbeda/Akowonjo Local Development Authority, the council asked them to submit their allocation papers for an upgrade of the market.
They said that the upgrade was suspended when their lawyer challenged the council after an advice from the Lagos State Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development.
According to them, the Ministry of Physical Planning advised that the structures in the market be maintained as any attempt to raise the shops to high rise would affect the structural integrity of the entire market.
Isaac Ilesanmi, a trader in the market, said: “We forwarded the Town Planning report, through our lawyer, to the Governor’s Office and copied the council and the upgrade was suspended.
“But now, they have come back, after Governor Fashola has gone, to take over the shops.’’
The traders queried the rationale of the local government for planning to take over the shops that were sold to them on owner-occupier terms at the first instance.
“We bought these shops in 2004 at the price range of N300,000 for those located inside and N400, 000 for those facing the road.
“We pay our yearly permit of N4, 100 as responsible citizens, abide by every rule governing the state and expect due consideration from government.
“However, it is unfortunate that a government that we chose to represent us and oversee our welfare is working secretly to destroy our source of livelihood,” he said.
Ayoola Aromolaran, another trader in the market, said: “We are not against the plan to upgrade the market, but what we are saying is that no trader was consulted about the project.
“I feel this is wrong, we own the shops because we bought them from the state government in 2004, therefore, we should be engaged in issues that affect the market.
“The purported committee that has been dealing with the council is not representing us; we did not elect nor nominate them to speak on our behalf.
“They have no stake in Rauf Aregbesola Market; they do not own any shop nor sell in the market, so, they can never understand our plight nor be our representatives in this issue.”
Moses Njoku said that the desperation with which the council was going about the market upgrade showed ulterior motives than the purported improvement of the market.
“The council is trying to deceive us. We heard that current tenants will have to pay one million naira, while new tenants will pay two million naira to acquire the shops after the upgrade.
“This is not fair considering the economic situation of the country and the fact that we are paying again for what we had previously bought.
“More so, politics will be played during allocation of the shops; it will be man know man game.
“A top representative of the council that oversees the market once boasted to us that he used five people’s name to acquire five shops in the newly constructed shopping complex in the area.
“I believe that some of these government officials are touting this upgrade claim for their selfish interest.’’
Another trader who simply identified herself as “Iya Nimota’’ said: “In 2001, Iyana Ipaja Shopping Complex was upgraded with pillars without demolition, the traders were not told to pay extra money.
“If the government has our interest at heart, as claimed, then they should do the same thing.
“Government should protect us; we traders are suffering, the economy is in a bad state, purchasing power of the customer has reduced.
“On most days, we do not make any sales, we have turned to spectators in the market, most of us are living a beggarly lifestyle, and government should please consider our welfare in its plans.’’
Lateef Abiodun, the Market Master for Alimosho Local Government, said that the planned upgrade of the market was in line with the megacity plan of the state government.
Mr. Abiodun also serves as the Chairman, Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), Alimosho Branch.
He said: “There’s going to be an upgrade, but we will not displace them, all the previous tenants will be put back in their rightful places.
“We have had meetings with the committee members set up by the market on this issue. We do not intend to create untold hardship on them, but rather to protect them.
“If they are resisting, what happened in Oshodi market may happen there, we are not saying we are the ones to do it.
“Because, those people (Oshodi) have been on it for quite a long time and the state government just took action, we do not want that to happen here.’’
The Rauf Aregbesola Market is a bungalow structure market, created in 2004 with 110 shops.