Shop owners and workers at the Retail Market in Ogba, Lagos State on Tuesday staged a peaceful demonstration to express their displeasure at the news of the proposed demolition of the market.
The protest, which started with a meeting of the shop owners at the market, also saw the protesters carrying placards from Ogba to the Lagos State Television on Agidingbi Road and the Alausa, Ikeja seat of the Lagos State Government.
The Ojodu Local Council Development Authority is proposing to demolish the market, they claimed.
As early as 8am, many of the shop owners and workers had gathered within the market, discussing in hush hush tones the proposed demolition of the market and its implication for them, especially their survival after the exercise and losses that would be incurred.
The protest paralyzed business activities as shops were shut for the period it lasted while numerous customers, who were in the market early on Tuesday, either had to leave or wait for its reopening at about midday.
Most of the shop owners accused the Iyaloja of the market, Alhaja Ganiyat Kasumu, of conniving with officials of Ojodu LCDA to carry out the demolition without carrying them along.
They said Kasumu was protecting her selfish interest instead of seeking the good of all, for which she was elected.
The shop owners said they have learnt the bitter lesson from Tejuoso Market, also in Lagos State, where the market was demolished but many of the traders who owned shops there before the exercise, could not get spaces to carry on their businesses.
The accusation has been that many of those who got shops in the new Tejuoso Market are those in government who now let them out at exorbitant prices.
In fact, their fear is that if they refuse the demolition, the market would be burnt down, a move they alleged was used in chasing away the traders at Tejuoso Market.
Speaking at the peaceful protest, Taiwo Adeoba, a retiree and shop owner at the Retail Market, described the move by Kasumu and the local government as disheartening and killing.
Adeoba said: “Where was Kasumu in 1985 when we started this market?
“How would you just wake up one day and conspire with some people and say you want to demolish Retail Market?
“They want to reconstruct and re-sell to the allotees at N7 million, which is ridiculous to me.
“This will certainly deprive us of our daily bread because I do not see anyone in this market that can afford it irrespective of their status.
“We actually chose Kasumu to steer the ship of the market because she is related to the late Iyaloja of Lagos State, Alhaja Abibatu Mogaji.
“Kasumu has been doing fine until lately when the idea of demolition came to the fore.
“We would not fold our arms and allow this happen to us before our very eyes because there are widows, young ones and graduates among us.
“We have asked our lawyer, a reputable human rights lawyer, to file an injunction against what they intend to do.”
A male shop owner, Saheed Olalekan, also expressed his displeasure.
Olalekan said the plot will not work because it was meant to impoverish them the more.
He said: “We will not sit down and allow this happen to us.
“We will use all in our arsenal to ensure this plot is not carried out.”
However, the Manager of Ojodu Local Council Development Authority, Grace Olaopin, has said that the plan is to redevelop the market and not just to demolish it.
Olaopin said: “With due respect, Alhaja Kasumu was not well informed about what we intend doing before conveying wrong information to our people.
“We just collected their yearly tenement rate of N7,020.
“So how on earth can someone do that to a fellow human being?
“We have never discussed demolition exercise with Kasumu.
“Our able chairman loves his people so he can never hinder their daily living because Retail Market contributes immensely to the growth of this area.
“Though plans are underway to turn the market to a model one but not by demolition.
“There will be concession for our people if we embark on this.
“We would call her (Kasumu) to order because we actually initiated plans to meet with the market executives before she went ahead to relay the wrong information.
“All shop owners are still the rightful owners of their shops.
“They will just pay a token for the redevelopment exercise over a period of time.
“It will not affect their businesses.”