How long have you been in this market?
I have been in Ladipo for about 30 years but I started my own business in 1998.
Since you started how has the experience been?
We’re coping. This Ladipo market is a good place to be. This is where we get our daily food. If at all you come to the market without a dime, by the grace of God you will make money. You can’t return home empty handed, and it’s legitimate.
How did you feel when you heard that this place is going to be demolished?
I felt so bad. In fact, I still feel uncomfortable presently because there is no other place I am getting my daily bread from.
How true is it that when Governor Ambode came here during campaign your people booed him, threw pure water sachets and empty cans at him, and allegedly that informed the reason the government is now fighting back since the All Progressives Congress (APC) eventually won the election.
I don’t know anything about that. I don’t believe in that at all. Even my chairman who is now the president of LASEC organized campaign for Ambode and all of us were there that day. When it comes to election, people have the right to vote for whoever they want. And as for us here, we gave our support to Ambode. We voted him and APC in all the elections.
How can you describe what happened here on Tuesday, June 30, 2015?
We can call it partial demolition because when the roofs were removed, what else again? As you can see, the rain has destroyed a lot of our items. For instance, we have some expensive spare parts, including brain box, which is sold ranging from N250,000 to about N800,000 depending on the model and types of cars.
That means a lot of goods were destroyed which might have run into millions of naira?
Yes, but by the grace of God we’re able to settle with the local government that same day and we’re able to safeguard some of our goods because by then the rain has started already. We’re able to have access to some of our items.
When exactly did they arrive here on Tuesday?
Very early in the morning. They came around 4.30 a.m. They were local government officials, armed men and some area boys. They were all here. They even removed the security man here and started removing all the roofs. You can see all the empty roofs yourself.
How much do you think have been lost to this incident?
We have lost over N200m. As I speak to you now, we’re still counting our losses. We’re yet to quantify the total loss because the items we couldn’t protect that day were spoilt by the rain. And it also rained heavily on Thursday, which damaged almost every item in most of the partially destroyed shops.
But we learnt you have been issued a month quit notice which you disregarded. How true is it?
No, it was that Tuesday evening we reached that agreement. That’s even the reason they opened this place for us. They now gave us only one month to pack out. We even pleaded for six months, they said no.
Even if you’re able to pack out of this place in one month in line with the deadline, where are you relocating to?
They have not provided any alternative place for us. We’re going nowhere because that can’t happen where they have not given any alternative place.
But we learnt they want to redevelop this market and that’s the reason they want to demolish all the old structures. What’s your reaction to that?
We’re not against rebuilding the place but a due process must be followed so that lives and property won’t be lost. As it is now, no due process was followed. They just came and started removing our roofs, chasing everybody out.
What do you want the state government to do in this case now?
We want the state government to intervene so that normal process will be followed.
That means you’re also ready to cooperate if that’s done?
Yes, if they show us where to relocate to for the main time before they will complete the redevelopment and we will now come back and have access to our shops. There is no problem in that.
Have you made any effort as executive members, to reach out to the state government?
Yes, we have done that. Our chairman has organized a press conference where he spoke for everybody to hear us out.
Apart from that, have you written a formal protest letter to the governor himself?
We’re planning to do that.
Where are you from?
I am from Imo State.
– TADE ASIFAT