When did you become the chairman of this market?
That was July, 2012. That’s about three years.
How has the experience been since?
It has been good. We’re coping.
When exactly did you start selling spare parts in this market?
I started since 1998.
Since then, how would you describe the business?
It’s fine. Since we don’t have any other business, we just have to cope with whatever situation we find ourselves .
On Tuesday, some people came from Mushin Local Government and started demolishing this market. How do you feel about that?
It’s a very pathetic story. We’re still trying to get ourselves together because we have been in shock since the incident happened. I cannot understand why such a thing should happen in any decent society. How can somebody just hire area boys, backed up with the police and OPMESA, send our people out of the market and started removing their roofs, breaking their shops and removing their money and other valuables. It’s a very sad story.
As the chairman of this market, what have you done about it since that day?
We went on air so that people would be aware of the incident, that in this 21st century, something like this is still happening. And we have also met with the Executive Secretary of the local government on how to resolve the issue. If you want to rebuild this market, it’s not something you can do under two minutes. And there was a court case between the local government and Owoyemi Family on this property here. They went to court against the local government and won the possession of this place.
That means this place belongs to Owoyemi family and it’s from the family that you people got this place?
No, the whole place was under control of Mushin Local Government before. But when the family took the local government to court, they now won.
But why is it now that it’s the local government coming here to harass you people?
Yes, the local government has been using its machinery to intimidate the family. But along the line, the property was shared in the ratio of 60 to 40 in favour of the local government. Even at that, the local government has no right to lock up the place.
That means those of you here occupy the section that belongs to Mushin Local Government?
And you people pay your dues to the local government and those that occupy the part that belongs to Owoyemi Family pay to the family?
Now that the local government said it wants to reconstruct this place and that’s the reason you’re asked to quit. What’s your reaction to that?
Yes, it’s good. It’s only not being done genuinely. I believe courtesy should be observed in an issue like this. As a landlord, you may have your right to do whatever you like with your property just as the tenants also have. Even if you’re a squatter, you should also be treated fairly. So, you can’t just start pulling down people’s shops without any notice. There should be enough notice and communication between the traders and the local government before anything of such can be done.
But now, you are given a month notice to vacate this place, is that not enough?
One month is not even enough at all. The one month they’re talking about was signed under duress. People that have brain boxes in their shops are many, and these things are very expensive. Where do they keep them? That’s why I said we signed the undertaking under duress.
Do you pay your dues regularly to the local government?
Yes, except that of 2015 that we haven’t paid anything. And normally, we usually pay around this period. Now, they’re claiming they want to redevelop the market, let’s wait till when they’re done with that.
The fear of your people is that some of them may not be accommodated back again?
That’s the bone of contention now. It’s just like Tejuosho, when the traders were evicted in the name of redevelopment, none of them was able to get the shop anymore because of the fee. So, there is the fear now. And there is no proper arrangement as to where to keep their goods pending the completion of the reconstruction they’re claiming.
The tale was that what’s happening to you here is like a fight back from the government because your people embarrassed Ambode during the campaign period?
I don’t know anything of such. There was a lot of political undertones. If it was a fight back, I can’t say. I will only say what I know. We embraced all the politicians that came here to campaign, including Governor Ambode. And that’s why he should accommodate everybody and be a father to us all.
How much would you say have been lost to this partial demolition?
I would say it’s in the neighbourhood of N300m because we don’t sell tomatoes or pepper, we deal in big machines and they are very expensive.
You’re from where?
I am from Anambra State.
– TADE ASIFAT