Traders of the Olorunsogo Ultra modern market which was destroyed over the weekend have decried the action of the Lagos State government. They said despite several petitions and pleas to the state, their efforts were discarded without due notice of eviction.
According to them, the issue was already in court and had undergone two sittings before the demolition. Many of the shops owners were said to have bought at high rates from the developer contracted by the government. They agitated for due compensation especially for shop owners, insisting that government must make provision for an alternative site.
A trader who simply gave his name as Augustin said: “The matter is already in court and the last adjournment date now is February 9. The case we are making with the State and the Onigbongbo Local Council Development Area, is that they should relocate us and compensate the shop owners, not traders. Anybody can be a trader but the legitimate owners that bought the shop from the government must be compensated. That is what is obtainable in any civil society anywhere.”
Describing the incidence as a negative hit on his business, Augustin said: “by the gravity of what has happened to me, I am losing N10million worth of goods because I lost all. I bought my shops for N2.5million and I have two stores; an open block and another lock up shop. There is no formal eviction notice given to the market. It is only based on mere here say through our people. Government officials through their agencies cannot come to claim that they came here for once, summoned the marketers, or shop owners to leave for demolition. Even from the here say, they told them that they are going to relocate the traders somewhere at Tipper Garage Ojota, and still pay us compensation because that was the agreement between them and the developer. So we are all surprised that at about 12am, when people were sleeping, they called that the bulldozer was here, take your things, else we will bulldoze them. How can it be possible for someone to evacuate his wares under two minutes? It is uncalled for, disheartening and inhumane. My source of livelihood as I speak with you has been destroyed. In less than six days, my children will resume school, where will I get their school fees.There are no jobs and the place we are using to manage ourselves is still destroyed.”
Corroborating him, Ekene, a curtain seller and sewer who lost his goods said: “I was at home around 12pm when they called me but I couldn’t come until 4am this morning. I was not able to rescue anything. I sell and sow curtains. We were informed that they were going to break this place but we didn’t really understand it then. There are two parties in the market. A group were saying that it would happen, others said nothing would happen. My take is that if our government is good, when they arrived here with armoured vehicles, they should have waited and by this morning, people will come and get their goods before they start demolishing. It was the same thing that happened to the other side, so it’s not new. I feel so bad to begin the year this way but it won’t kill myself or steal.”
A live chicken seller, Olayinka Adebimpe said: “They told us since last year and we begged them to wait till January. So we expected them to notify us of the date they are coming but we didn’t know. They ought to tell us. The reason why we waited was because we were expecting the payment promised us because we bought the shops with full allocation. I bought mine for N450,000 from the contractors and I was given allocation directly from government. That was our expectation. We know we can’t fight the government. All my chickens are dead. We were pursued with tear gas.”
A sewer, Chienwa who fainted on the news of demolition said: “I can’t understand. When they asked us to park, I thought they were joking. The next thing was that someone called me that there was demolition ongoing. The only thing I saved from my shop is my machine. Up till now, I don’t get myself. We don’t know the reason why they demolished.”
She pleaded with government to always give room for people to pack their belongings before destroying.
The Babaloja, Lukman Adeyemo however debunked the claim that the traders were not informed, saying: “It is not true that we didn’t tell them. It was government itself that built the market and sold to us. We regularly pay levies to the local government here. What the government told us was that a bigger shopping mall will replaced this. So rather than having for instance, 200 people patronise here, about 10,000 would. They promised to return and even compensate everyone.” (The Nation)