A 35-year-old leasehold granted a private developer for Alade market in Allen Avenue, Lagos, is a ploy to force open markets out of Ikeja and replace them with shopping malls, a lawyer has said.
Jiti Ogunye, a Lagos-based lawyer, said in an open letter to Governor Akinwunmi Ambode that the Ikeja local council officials had continued to invade and forcibly eject traders at the market from their stalls.
“Our clients believe that the said lease of Alade Market to the property developer by the Ikeja Local Government Council, with the aim of abolishing Alade Market and building in its stead a shopping mall or complex, is contrary to public policy,” said Mr. Ogunye, who is representing the traders in a civil suit against the Lagos government.
“In Ikeja, Lagos State, there are Ikeja Shopping Mall, along Obafemi Awolowo Way; Ikeja Shopping Mall [Shoprite] in the heart of Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos State; Trinity Shopping Mall along Obafemi Awolowo Way, Ikeja; Cash & Carry Electronics Shopping Mall, and other shopping malls on Allen Avenue Ikeja.
“Instructively, in major cosmopolitan cities of the world, including London in the United Kingdom, and New York, open markets exist side by side with shopping malls and complexes, providing alternative sources of livelihood for traders and alternative sources of buying goods for people.
“Our clients believe that the destruction of Alade Market in Allen Avenue Ikeja will mean that in Ikeja, Lagos State, shopping complexes and malls are being made to replace markets with the attendant social and economic implications.”
One of such implications, according to Mr. Ogunye, is that street traders and hawkers would flood Ikeja roads, thus complicating the enforcement of the street trading prohibition law of Lagos State.
“In a Lagos State that does not have its own state prisons, but which has to rely on the Federal Prisons in Lagos State to house offenders serving custodial punishments, keeping the hordes of street traders who may be made to serve custodial punishments for violating the street trading prohibition law, certainly, is a major challenge,” he said.
“This is one good reason why policy-wise, established markets like Alade Market, which are not posing any security, environmental and social problems to the Lagos State Government, ought not be demolished.”
Last year, the Lagos State Government said there was no going back on its plan to redevelop the Alade Market into a N6.9 billion mega-shopping mall.
The contract for the redevelopment of the market was granted in 2010 to Master Reality International Concepts Ltd, which is investing N6.9 billion on the project under a 30-year concession on a Build, Own and Transfer (BOT) basis.
Traders at the market had continued to clash with government officials over the latter’s plans to forcibly eject them.
The Lagos State government says it has made provisions to relocate the traders to another site.
But Mr. Ogunye said the government’s continued insistence to take over the market despite a legal suit filed by the traders last year was a subversion of the rule of law.
“The issues of whether our clients could be relocated from the said land is part of the issues being currently litigated at the High Court of Lagos State, Ikeja Judicial Division,” he said.
“It will, thus, amount to a grave abuse of the rule of law to resort to self-help while the issues are being tried before a competent court of law that is adjudicating the matter.
“The law is well settled that once a civil matter is placed before a court or judicial tribunal for adjudication, parties to the court action must refrain from doing anything capable of overreaching, undermining or foisting a fait accompli on the court.
“Doing so will not only be tantamount to subverting the rule of law, but also will amount to treating the court with contempt. No matter the impatience on the part of parties, they are under a legal obligation to await the outcome of the resolution or determination of the issues submitted to the court for adjudication.”
Mr. Ogunye urged the Lagos State government to desist from further acts of aggression against the traders while the matter is still in court.
“Your Excellency, our clients are not and will never be an obstacle to the urban renewal and re-development programme of Lagos State,” the lawyer told Mr. Ambode.
“It is proper to modernize markets and other centres of commerce in Lagos State. While doing so, however, legal rights and economic interests of marketers and traders ought not be sacrificed, abused or disregarded.
“Our constructive view is that even if the relocation and redevelopment of the market land has become a commercial imperative, the Lagos State Government [the owner of the market land] must sit down with the traders, dialogue with them, and enter into a binding agreement on relocation of the traders to a new suitable site, [which, definitely, cannot be the low, wet, canal, which is prone to flooding, that is being suggested] before re-possession of Alade market.
“This is not only because there is a pending court case in respect of the subject matter – a case which must not be truncated by executive arbitrariness but which may be amicably settled out of court, with the involvement of the court – but also because most of our clients are vulnerable women, who are the breadwinners of their families.
“They need government’s protection and not assault. Government’s development policies and plans should not be executed in such a way to unwittingly create the impression that women are being specifically targeted and are being economically strangulated.”
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