By Ishola Balogun
Early last Wednesday, Oshodi made the news again, with a bulldozer at work. On orders of governor Akinwunmi Ambode, it rumbled through the Owonifari market,Oshodi, Lagos, crushed and flattened everything on sight within the market. But cries of traders at the market, roared louder than the bulldozer which pulled down the market. “I am finished, I just arrived from China with over N20million goods, they have crushed everything. Where will I start from?”
It was a cacophony of noise, curses, abuses mixed with rage and anger. Even by-standers and onlookers did not spare the authorities, as some of them muted abuses on the Ambode-led government for destroying the market with goods worth over one billion naira. A few others said: Traders in Lagos are stubborn, they will never hear, that is good for them!
Kenneth Madu, a trader in the market told Saturday Vanguard that he had been extremely brutalised as he lost everything he had laboured for in the market.
Battling emotion, Madu stated: “I just stocked my shop with new items I brought in from China a few days before the Christmas holiday. When I heard that they have sealed up the market, I rushed down to see if I can evacuate all my goods from the shop. They denied us access into the market and chose to demolish the market with all our goods. I had more than N20million goods in my own shop. Others had more. All attempt to remove our goods failed. I even offered to give the police N200,000 just to allow me remove my goods, they refused. I have been brutalised and traumatised. This is murder, they have killed us.”
He gazed again at what used to be his small shop that contained his over N20million goods leaned back to clear his over-burdened brain of the confusion and said: “This government is wicked and inhuman.” Asked whether there was any notice to that effect. He stated that there was no notice of the demolition, “they only came to serve a 21-day quit notice that Isopakodowo in Bolade has been provided. But the 21-day quit notice has not expired. Even where they said we should go at Bolade is uncompleted, small and cannot contain all the traders in this market let alone attract the patronage we receive here,” Madu stated.
Another trader, Mr Sunday Obi said: “I heard the government had sealed up the market while I was at home for Christmas, I quickly rushed down, but I got here on Wednesday. They have demolished and destroyed everything I had in the market. I had over N10million worth of goods. I sell wires and electronics in my shops. This morning I came to see if I could pick up a few things from the rubble, but I saw fire everywhere again. Who set fire on what was left?
We don’t know. But, it means, there was a deliberate attempt for us not to pick up anything from here. If they (governments) don’t want the Igbos in Lagos, they should come out to tell us. How can they demolished the market without allowing us to remove our goods? It is inhuman,” he said.
Obi stated that over 2000 traders had their goods trapped in the demolished market, with huge loses that run into over a billion naira. “About 2000 traders had different goods in the market. I really can’t estimate what we have lost but a modest estimate will be over a billion naira. At a time when people have spent all what they had to re-stock preparation for business in a new year, it is wicked,” he said.
In 2009, Ambode’s predecessor, Babatunde Fashola, was praised for clearing Oshodi, ridding the areas of miscreants and easing traffic gridlock in the area. Following this development, Ambode who after inauguration said his government will govern with compassion, is perhaps set to conclude the unfinished job BFR started on Oshodi seven years ago.