The Siege On Lagos Market | Independent Newspapers Limited
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The Siege On Lagos Market

Posted: May 15, 2016 at 6:07 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Recent pathetic media images and footage of the aged and infirm, disconsolate nursing mothers and able-bodied men and women – all twitching, bewailing, and roiling in a flood of tears on a Lagos street – in propitiation to the conscience of Governor Akinwumi Ambode of Lagos State to cancel and perpetually reverse his proposed demolition of the Olorunsogo ultra-modern market in Oshodi, evokes heart-rending nightmares.  It is yet another sad commentary on the state’s chequered history of democratic dividends delivery and the over 1.000 helpless and hapless market men and women who occupy Olorusogo’s 438 lock-up stalls, and their over 500,000 dependents must, by no mean, be added to the state’s burgeoning list of endangered social victims.

The proposed demolition is clearly wrong-headed, not thoroughly thought-out, and therefore unwarranted. All proofs, evidences and exhibits considered, it is clear that what is at play is a most unwholesome and inordinate design by Lagos State Government (LASG) to dispossess and divest the traders and investors of their proprietary rights by an invidious privatisation of a choice public institution. More lamentable is that LASG’s resort to the use of force by seeking to employ the instruments of eviction and demolition falls right through as an after-thought, and a most unfortunate one for that matter.

To every allegation that the market had no building plan; that the traders were illegal occupants without valid papers; that the market lacked essentials like lavatories, parking space, adequate air spacing, etc., these traders diligently and meticulously surmounted them with unassailable proofs, documentations and indestructible exhibits.

Initial approval for commencement of trading activities at the site was reportedly given by the military government of retired Brigadier-General Raji Rasaki in 1989 and subsequently reconfirmed by his predecessors Col Olagunsoye Oyinlola and retired Brigadier-General Mohammed Buba Marwa. The market’s building plan was formally approved by Governor Ahmed Bola Tinubu at the inception of democracy in 1999 and subsequently registered within the state’s urban and regional development unit by the State Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development vide Ref IK2005/DO/027/22 in the year 2006 using Development Control department. This act gave imprimatur to the physical construction of the market by the Oshodi LGA/Onigbongbo LCDA under the exact specifications as contained in the approved plan.

Why seek to demolish a market which holds forth as a revitalizing refuge in the wild, withering wilderness of market crises that had plagued Lagos State since the inception of democracy?  And yet, seeking to do so on grounds that are wholly baseless. The market has been one of the few functional places of commercial activities devoid of street urchins and hoodlums and other activities negatively connected with some other markets in Lagos. Its administration has been without any hitch and the occupiers have been maintaining high levels of decorum and environmental standards with good security. Those administering the market have been very responsible persons of indelible track record, whose activities have, times without number, received the tremendous acclamations of successive Onigbongbo LCDA administrations. If, as has been largely acknowledged, that Olorunsogo’s variegated population from all parts of the nation in the past 10 years had made it iconic, as both an ethnic melting-pot and cultural mélange in a fractious nation and cosmopolitan Lagos, what  justifiable reasons avail for its present siege?

As the only market in the entire Onigbongbo LCDA which serves as its sole internally-generated revenue source, what becomes the council’s lifeline in the event of its eventual demolition? It is important to remind the Governor that the LASG being a product of the mandate of the people, must abide by the rule of law by ensuring that all its administrative actions and decisions as they affect the citizens including Olorunsogo market traders are lawful, consistent and equitable. The Governor must not only know that it is much easier to destroy than to build, but also, that in this period of extreme economic hardship sweeping across the national landscape, it will be insensitive adding to citizens’ already overbearing burden.

The Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), Nigeria’s leading and largest rights advocacy group which brought the Olorunsogo injustice to the limelight must not relent in seeing its successful end. Indeed the general public is eagerly watching to see how the government will be guided in this matter. The LSG therefore must listen to the voice of reason by understanding that the Lagos electorate which voted the present administration into power believes that their willing surrender of authority to administer state affairs will be used in the interest of all.  The LSG must exercise restraint, and rescind on the proposed demolition without any further delay because every reason adduced for it flies in the face of logic, reason and common sense.