THE last has not been heard about the relocation crisis rocking Alade Market, Ikeja, Lagos. According to Ikeja Local Government Council, a temporary site is ready for use but Alade Market traders are rejecting it because it is not habitable. A big canal that is usually flooded during rainy season is too close to the new site, including other alleged major disadvantages.
ENCOMIUM Weekly spoke with Alade Market traders’ lawyer, Alade Market traders’ representative and Ikeja Local Government Council about the crisis.
LAWYER JITI OGUNYEs
Can you tell us the right of Alade Market traders as regards this case?
My view is this, when government acquires land for public purpose, be it for the establishment of markets, schools, hospitals, parks, that purpose is for the public. If the government later converts it to meet personal interest, it means, there is a breach. Government acquires land but once you designate a land for a particular purpose, it has to continue to be for that purpose. You cannot convert it to a private purpose. Previous incidents will bear the truth out. We are aware of Tejuosho Market and all the other markets, the usual reason or inexactitude is that government and developers will say, when we develop, we will bring you back here, but they don’t have such obligation again. The developer is a private entity, he is doing business, you are not part of his plan. If anybody tells them to move temporarily to another place with the hope of returning them to their initial place, it is all lies.
If they lose the market, they are losing it forever. Alade Market land was acquired for a market. Government is nobody’s king, they are expected to serve the people. If a land is acquired for public purpose, if they want to modernize or develop it, they should take into consideration the interest of the stakeholders, meet with them, give them the benefit of refusal at first, ask them to organize themselves, give them your plan, let them work with it.
If this matter is to be legally contested, we will raise the issue of propriety of a government acquiring a land for a public purpose and turning it to something else under the pretense of developing or modernizing the place. Shoprite is not a market, we know what market is. If the government wants development, they want investors to come in, they should get new land for them.
In the classical African tradition, the eagle and eaglet should both benefit from it. They should talk about the existence of people whose life will be challenged when you take their means of livelihood. Government should not increase people’s burden, they should rather reduce it.
Another issue is this, look around here, does this place look habitable? Ordinarily, given the policy of Lagos State Government, to clear drainages and canal of any structure, there is no reason for the government to have allowed any construction here. This is just a way to ensure the successful displacement of traders. By tomorrow, if another government comes, they will say you are close to the canal and the former pl ace would have gone. What do they want these people to do?
The traders at Alade Market are contributing to the economic development of Lagos State, they should not be treated like this.
If Lagos State acquires a land, and they designate it to local government as trustees, does the local government have the power to designate it for another purpose? That is another question we should ask. If they have the power to do so, should they bring armed thugs to invade a market in the night and they said they wanted to take over the land. The market has billions of naira goods in it. They shouldn’t take up arms to take over the place. Even if they have all the power over the land, there shouldn’t be threats, blackmail or any offensive act. They should have proceeded legally.
I will also state the issue of fairness, it is also not sentimental. There are over 1,000 traders in the market. You are bringing them to a place that has 280 shops near this canal. This is a low land, it can easily be flooded, with all other danger associated with flooding. You plan to put 1,000 occupants in 280 shops, what happens to the rest? It means they are promoting discord in a market where unity, solidarity, understanding, good neighbourliness abide. You are promoting vices, fights, discrimination and misunderstanding will set in.
Overidingly, what is the policy of the government regarding ordinary people? I am referring to Section 14, Sub Section 2B of the Constitution. It says that, the security and well being of people shall be the primary purpose of government. We should ask the government, their policy regarding ordinary people. Is it to drive people into the ocean, make life miserable for them? It is like wiping out the traders. Some people have been there for 30 years, that market is part of their history.
Look at this place, a lot of vices take place on the road that leads to this place. Is the government leaving them at the mercy of hoodlums?
Nigerians should be alerted, if any hazard should happen to that market, we know where it is coming from. Threats have been issued, statements have been made.