Gaseous emission emanating from hundreds of small generators envelop the atmosphere, polluting the air, contributing to the depletion of the ozone layer. Deafening noise from the generators pollute the ambience unabated. The environment is unkempt with filth in every nook and cranny. Squatters have converted makeshift structures into their permanent abode.
This is Alade Market located at the heart of Ikeja, capital of Lagos State, and the third largest mega city in the world. The situation at this market is very sad. Traders have resisted several attempts by the Ikeja Local Government to rebuild the market to befit the mega city status accorded Lagos. The market sits at the hub and commercial centre of Lagos. An aerial view of the market depicts the opposite of what a modern market in the hub of Lagos should be.
A front view of the market portrays a repulsive image. Some metres away, the frontage is always messy irrespective of time one visits the market. Vehicles are often park just about anywhere creating undue congestion just before Allen roundabout. This is not because the market does not have parking lots of its own, but the parking lots have been illegally converted into shops.
Investigation revealed that there are over 200 illegal shops all over the place, apart from about 300 shops that were legally constructed. In April, 2013, a fire gutted the market, compromising the structural integrity of many structures in the market, according to a test carried out by the Lagos State Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development.
According to a report signed by a Director in the ministry, D. A. Rufai a test carried out after the fire outbreak revealed that the structures had become defective and the market seriously overcrowded. The report specified the need to rebuild the market, which had been in existence for 30 years.
Aside the report, the market has been converted for dual purpose. There has been complaints that hundreds of traders have turned the market into their residence. Several traders use their shops for dual purposes, first for trading and second as residence, which has altered the original plan of the market. Also, noxious emissions emanating from over 200 generators that power different shops in the market has devastating effects on human health. Traders are daily confronted with carbon emitted by the generators.
According to the Executive Secretary, Ikeja Local Government, Adekunle Adeokun, the dangerous emission from the generators are life-threatening, while the storing of petrol in the market to power the generators could lead to fire outbreak any time.
Residents of the area had for long been calling on the Lagos State Government to salvage the situation of the market to protect the ambience and to lift the status of the market to befit the mega city status of Lagos.
Residents are of the view that Alade Market is a disaster waiting to happen. Though there are plans to develop the market, the traders are resisting the proposal of Ikeja Local Government to relocate them to a newly built market. Recently traders in the market protested to Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s office, accusing the Ikeja Local Government of trying to forcefully evict them from the market. The protesters were led by Sulola Odunsi-Daina.
Odunsi-Daina said relocating the market would lead to loss of patronage and displacement of about 1,000 shop owners and traders. According to her, there “are 300 shops and 700 K-clamps, thereby bringing the number of traders to 1,000. Odunsi-Daina admitted that a new place had been built for the traders, but noted that only 120 shops “have been built. What will be the fate of about 880 traders? The new site is not environmentally friendly because it is close to canal. It is not habitable. Aside, it is a slum. The shops there are a far cry from the ones currently in Alade Market.”
The Iyaloja of Ikeja, Mrs. Adia Apena faulted the claims of Odunsi-Daina that there was a plan to forcefully evict the traders from the market, saying that the plan to rebuild the market had been in the pipeline about a decade ago, adding that ever since, the traders had been told that they would be relocated for works to commence on rebuilding of the market.
“Since another place has been provided for them, it becomes imperative for them to cooperate with the local government and the developer. But the developer and the market leaders have to agree on terms and conditions of re-allocation. Once this aspect is resolved, the traders will relocate to the new site,” she said.
Also, the council’s Executive Secretary, Adeokun, said there was no plan to forcefully evict the traders from the market. “The traders are economical with the truth because the council has no plan to forcefully evict them from the market. We are only discussing terms and conditions of relocating to the new site, which the developer, Master Reality International Concept Limited said, is 65 per cent completed,” he explained.
He added that the current status of Alade Market is a blemish on Africa’s model megacity, stressing that the council proposed to turn the market into a first-class centre of commerce in West Africa.
“The proposal has been on for one decade. In 2005, all the stakeholders agreed to relocate from the market because it no longer befits the megacity status of Lagos. Had it been the traders relocated when the proposal to redevelop the market was first conceived one decade ago, Alade Shopping Mall would have been the first shopping mall of international standard in Lagos State.
“The proposal of the shopping mall would have been open in Ikeja before the advent of Shoprite. The rationale behind the conception of the proposed shopping mall has to do with the need to build a befitting centre of trade and commerce safe and secure for business transactions.
“The market was originally constructed more than 30 years ago. The market has lost its beauty; become structurally weak and did not fit into the status of Lagos mega city again. The shortcoming calls for the need to dismantle the market and develop a befitting one. All the stakeholders earlier agreed to the relocation plan. Originally, the current Alade Market, “has only 300 shops, but the entire market has been converted into shops, which violates the initial plan of the market. There are over 200 generators in the market. This portends grave consequences if the situation continues. It has to be arrested now,” he explained.
The Executive Secretary said there was no way the council could forcefully evict the traders without providing the right alternative. “We cannot throw them out. We have a relocation plan for them. The developer has started developing the new site, which has bigger parking lots and other facilities. We have purchased 350 KVA generator that will serve the entire market; so, there will not be need for each shop owner to bring in their generators.”
Managing Director, Master Reality International Concept Limited, Lai Omotola said Alade Shopping Mall was structured around a Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) arrangement and designed to fit into the megacity status of Lagos State, adding that the concession agreement to redevelop the market was struck on 17 August, 2010 with Ikeja Local Government.
According to him, the agreement includes the relocation plan for the traders currently trading in the market, adding that about 200 shops had been completed on the new site. “About 126 shops are half done. So, we have built 326 shops. These are more than 300 shops originally built in the market. The concerned traders are the root cause of the relocation crisis in the market. The concerned traders are not actually the legal tenants of Ikeja Local Government. Most of the allotees are not using their shops for private businesses.
The allotees have been renting out their shops to the concerned traders over the years. As we speak, there is conflict between the concerned traders and the allotees. So, the concerned traders are the ones protesting against the relocation plan. But the good news is that some of the allotees have started paying money.”
“The new site is 65 per cent completed. The market people are part and parcel of the relocation plan from the inception. The traders were part of the ground breaking and had visited the relocation site at different times after we started the construction of the temporary market,” he explained.
Omotola stated that after visiting the site, the market wrote a letter to the local government complaining about the relocation site. The letter was signed by the Iyaloja of Alade Market, Mrs. Elizabeth Adenuga and dated 11 July, 2014. The letter contained a nine-point demand, aimed at making the relocation site conducive.
In the document, the market women asked the council to provide adequate security, transformers, day care centre, drainage channels, health centre, additional shops, access road, beautification of the environment, adequate toilet facilities, parking lots and modalities of the allocation of shops.
The local government assured the market women of fair treatment. In a reply dated 11 August, 2014, the immediate past Chairman of the local government, Wale Odunlami said the shops would be allocated to original owners, noting that the council did not recognise those trading in the market illegally.
According to him, the issue of drainage had been resolved with the Office of Drainage Service, Lagos State Ministry of the Environment to protect any form of flooding, adding that the drainages would be well-channelled and a link bridge constructed over it. This, he said, formed part of the terms and conditions agreed upon in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the developer and the ministry.
The five-page agreement, which was mediated by Lagos State Ministry of Justice, was signed by the then Permanent Secretary, Drainage Service, Muyideen Akinsanya in the presence of Mr. Olakunle Adegbite of the ministry and the Managing Director of Masters Reality International Concept Limited, Omotola.
Odunlami, thus, said the drainage “has been resolved,” noting that an arrangement “has been made for day care centre, health clinic and car part.” Contrary to the Alade Market where parking is a challenge, the former council chairman said the proposed car park “has parking lots for about 100 vehicles of different categories.”
Currently, the value of shops in Ikeja ranges from N400,000 to N500,000. But Odunlami noted that the local government had subsidised rent “to N150,000 for a shop and N50,000 for a K-clamp per annum in order not to impoverish the market women.
But Omotola lamented that despite the assurance by the council, the market women did not make commitment, saying that the bank had refused to release more money unless the market women show commitment as the bank does not want to continue financing the new site when the relocation issue had not been addressed.
“The bank wanted to be sure of the repayment of the facility we have taken to execute the project. That was why the local government asked them to begin to pay so that the developer can complete the relocation site. The traders need to show commitment so that the bank can see we have agreed on the relocation plan. That is why the local government wrote them a letter directing them to start paying their rent.
“The relocation site is more spacious than Alade Market. The new site is built on 32 plots while the Alade Market has just 16 plots. So, there is no need for the market women to complain about space. All the facilities they have demanded for are already part of our original plan. Their concern has been addressed. But the market people are not cooperating enough with us to execute the project,” he decried.
He lamented that the approach of the market people to the relocation plan had grave effect on foreign direct investments (FDIs) and public private partnership (PPP) arrangement in Nigeria, lamenting that their approach was affecting its business already.
“We are indebted to the bank. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has issued a directive, asking all the debtors in a letter to pay up by July 31. The names of all debtors that fail to comply before the deadline would be published in national dailies and blacklisted from borrowing. The implication is that such debtors will no longer have access to credit facilities to fund their business initiatives and projects. That is the end of business for such debtors. If the bank cannot borrow you money, how can you do business? Other subscribers think the project is a fraud and scam,” he said.
Omotola appealed to Governor Akinwunmi Ambode to resolve the impasse because “our investment suffers serious setback and our overseas investors are threatening to recall their funding,” adding that the deposition of the market people was a negative advertisement for the PPP.
By Kazeem Ugbodaga, PM News