The traders say the closure of their shops is causing them untold hardship
Angry traders at the ever busy Breadfruit and Davies Streets in Lagos Island, Monday, cordoned off Broad Street in protest over the continued closure of their stalls.
In the wake of the inferno that engulfed Euro-Asia shopping plaza, a shopping centre along Breadfruit Street, three months ago; the state government sealed off all the shops along the street.
The shops at the adjoining Davies Street, though not affected by the fire, were also barred from trading activities on “safety grounds.”
Armed police officers were stationed outside both streets to enforce the closure order.
“We can no longer understand why we are kept out of our shops without any official explanation,” said Arinze Ugonabo, one of the protesters who is also the chairman of Lagos Island Fashion Dealers Association.
“Our plazas were not affected by the fire and government has been silent for too long,” Mr. Ugonabo added.
The placards-bearing traders, numbering in hundreds, grounded vehicular traffic at Broad Street, which hosts the Nigerian Stock Exchange office as well as major financial institutions. The closure order on their shops since October 27, last year, had forced them to either stay at home or move to nearby markets in order to make ends meet. And the rents for their shops do not come cheap.
“All we are doing today is pleading with our Governor. Perhaps all the letters we have written have not gotten to him,” Mr. Ugonabo said.”That is why we decided to reach out to him through this protest because our situations are now critical.”
The irony of Jankara
Last Boxing Day, a heavy cache of firecrackers stored away in a warehouse at Jankara market, also on Lagos Island, ignited a massive explosion that ripped through a dozen nearby buildings. One fatality was recorded and about ten buildings were marked for demolition by the state government.
However, barely one month after the incident, trading activities were allowed to continue, much to the chagrin of the protesting traders; a development they branded “the irony of Jankara market.”
Benedicta Nwosu, a protester, described her situation as “horrible.”
“My children cannot go back to school. It is difficult to understand why thousands of traders would be allowed to suffer because one building got burnt,” Mrs. Nwosu said.
In addition to being deprived their means of sustaining their families, the traders say they are steadily stacking up debts.
Bisi Razaq, a trader, said she borrowed money from a Microfinance Bank, last September, to embark on the pilgrimage to Mecca.
“I met a dashed hope when I returned from Hajj,” Mrs. Razaq, a widow, said.”I have not been able to make any return to the bank. The bank refused to understand our plight because they said our shops were not affected in the fire disaster. Governor Fashola should help us,” she added.
The traders said that they had written to the Lagos State Government on many occassions over their plight but have not received “even an informal response.”
Copies of letters addressed to offices of the State Governor; the Special Adviser on Central Business District; and the Commissioner for Special Duties were shown to reporters.
Efforts to reach Aderinola Disu, the Special Adviser to Governor Fashola on Central Business District, were not successful. Phone calls were not answered and text messages not replied.