Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Hues, Cries Over Demolition Of Ibafo Market

                  
                        Ibafo Market during the demolition exercise – Inset Iyaloja of Ibafo

                                     

Nkasiobi Oluikpe


Lagos – Chief (Mrs.) Fausat Ikumagbaye, the Iyaloja of Ibafo captures the pains and agonies of her members after the Ibafo market along the Ibadan Expressway was demolished by agents of Ogun State Government and the Federal Government. According to her, traders at the Ibafo market will require the grace of God for them to get over the losses inflicted on them by the demolition.
Officials of government last week rolled the bulldozer and cleared off the lock-up shops and stalls, reducing the old market to rubble, and according to the Iyaloja, most of the traders have been rendered literally decapitated following the demolition. Although no

one could give accurate account of what the traders have lost, what is clear is that persons who used to eke out a living doing all manners of trading activities and businesses have lost all to their displacement from the market by the government.
There is no doubt that the recent economic recession has directly or indirectly rendered many able bodied men and women completely incapacitated. The economy of the country appears to have nosedived especially because of high rate of exchange of dollar to naira. Records also showed that within the last one year, millions have lost their jobs while several companies have either closed up or are struggling to remain in business as a result of a very hostile business environment. Few people that choose to go into daily transactions of goods and services are also not free from various obvious challenges.
Why was the Ibafo market demolished? The immediate answer available to Independent during investigation was that the status of the market was belittling to the prime location overlooking the inter-state express road and needed to be upgraded.
However, recent experiences in Nigeria indicate that when government constructs a new market or redevelops an existing facility, the cost of acquiring or renting shops or stalls in such places are so high beyond the capacity of the average market man or woman, sometimes leaving most of the shops and stalls unoccupied for a long time and its original occupants jobless. This is why the recent demolition of the Ibafo market has become an issue between the affected victims, concerned citizens and the government.
According to Mrs. Ikumagbaye, the Iyaloja of both Ibafo and the entire Obafemi Owode Local Government Council of Ogun State, the market was constructed by a developer appointed by the local government with monies collected from people in the market, with the understanding that those who subscribed to building of the shops and stalls will enjoy right of possession of their respective facilities for an upward of 15 years.
The Iyaloja said her members agreed to fund the building of the market after the developer informed them that he didn’t have the money to do the project. The developer had reportedly told the traders that anyone who might be interested in owning a shop in the market would be the ones to pay for the development.
“We were the ones that constructed this market ourselves. It is our money that the developer used to carry out the construction. If you needed a shop, you will have to pay the developer. That was how the development was done.”
According to the Iyaloja, the council informed them that after 15 years of the construction, the council will take over possession of the market. Unfortunately, not too long after, news of a railway line passing by the market filtered unofficially into them. She thereafter decided to confirm with the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs what they intended to do for them as they could not stop the government from carrying out the construction of the railway line.
“Four days ago, I went to meet the Commissioner at Kara to request for their plans for Ibafo Market, he told us that they were going to provide a temporary place for us as Kara. He also said we should go and look for a piece of land, but all the ones we have seen have gas pipelines passing through them.”
Asked if there are plans to refund people whose rents were still running, she said, on her part, she didn’t collect any rent from anyone on the shops. “I don’t collect rent on shop or ground/land charges from anybody, worse still, I don’t collect money that will hurt people. This place they are occupying now with their tables, they only need to pay N1,000 for 30 days. You can go and confirm from them, I did not collect a dime from anybody in the name of shop or land rent.”
As this reporter told her that some of the affected shop owners lamented of having paid heavily for both their shops and for erecting extensions, and requested to know if there are other people who collect monies from the shop owners, she said. “Hmmnn, I cannot answer that.”
A visit to the king of Ibafo’s palace indicated he was away on a visit to the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs over the demolition palaver. However, Honourable Adenekan Rasheed was available to field questions from Independent over the issue.
Rasheed narrated that most of the shops that were demolished fall within the right of way and that its occupants had been notified two years ago. Presently, he said a piece of land has been allocated for the relocation of the market at Kara area of the state.
“We have got a piece of land at Kara, the Kabiyesi is out now to meet the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs and the Local Government chairman, they can come for an on-the-spot assessment of the parcel of land, preparatory to the relocation of the marketers.”
Since according to Rasheed, the relocation exercise is intended to make life easier for the people, this reporter asked if special considerations will be given to those whose rents are still running. In response he said, they don’t really have the intention of asking anybody to make a new payment, but just want to relocate them to make life comfortable for them. After some years, they can start paying dues.
He also refuted claims that the demolished shops and stalls were paid for by their occupants. “The only money they paid was the local government ticket fees. Nobody collects money from them. Nobody is charging them any other thing than that. That charge has been fixed; it is not peculiar to Ibafo Market but all the markets across the state.”
One of the affected shop owners, who spoke on condition of anonymity corroborated the Iyaloja that they were not informed about the demolition but heard about the Federal Government’s proposed railway line construction from the television broadcast.
“As I am talking to you, I have my shop here; my wife also has a shop here. So, you can imagine. Some of us even displayed our goods this morning, not knowing that the bulldozer will be landing this morning. I succeeded in removing my newsprint container, but a lot of other people were not that lucky. You have seen the situation we find ourselves. People’s means of livelihood have been destroyed. It is not as if there are jobs anywhere waiting to absorb people. One will be forced to start from the scratch again.”
Another shop owner who prefers to be referred to as Alhaji said it is not up to a month he paid for the shop and has not even taken possession as he was busy doing renovation and constructing extension. The permit for the extension alone, he revealed, cost N40,000.
“I don’t even know where to start from. I just rented my shop newly and carrying out some renovation work. You won’t believe that I paid N40,000 to attach an extension to the shop.  The iron rods and several other materials I used to erect the extension and do renovation works in the shop cost me close to N100,000. The renovation was still ongoing when this bulldozer landed with MOPOL men and the Ogun State government van. Where do I start from? This is money I borrowed from our village meeting. Everything has gone down the gutter. How do I survive with my family? Where do I start from?”
Alhaji said he never had an inkling they were going to demolish the market as there was no prior information to that effect.

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