It has been anxiety and apprehension for traders of the popular Mile 12 Market – West Africa’s biggest foods and perishable goods hub, since government announced its intention to relocate the marketlocated in Ikosi-Isheri Local Council Development Area, along Lagos –Ikorodu Road from its present location to Imota, about 100 kilometres in the undeveloped area of Ikorodu outskirt of Lagos.
While the big time traders who haul in goods from all parts of the country to Ketu are already putting logistics in place to continue their businesses there, not a few other ranks, especially the daily petty cash traders who buy and sell within the market on daily basis are mourning the anticipated loss of their livelihood and praying God to open Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s heart to consider at least one of their many reasons to enable him reverse the decision.
But while affirming his resolve to make the relocation a success at the new location, Ambode said, “We are committed to doing this; we know it is in the interest of Lagosians that we relocate the Mile 12 Market. The marketers themselves have agreed; the onus is now on us to ensure that we deliver this new market site within the next six months,” he said.
It would be recalled that the decision to relocate the market was not unconnected with the mayhem that claimed over a dozen lives and destroying properties worth hundreds of millions at the Agiliti/Maidan communities recently. The crisis was said to have erupted as a commercial motorcyclist of Hausa origin reportedly rode along a one-way route within the Agiliti area and was almost lynched for knocking a Yoruba woman down.
In a bid to get the motorcyclist to take the injured pedestrian to the hospital, the situation degenerated to ethno-tribal fracas between Hausa and Yoruba that lasted many days, recording the burning of houses including churches, vehicles, lootings and killing of scores of people. The Lagos state government had responded by closing the market for two weeks before decision of the relocation was announced.
Contrary to government’s claim however, traders at the market said the report which claimed that traders had agreed to the relocation was false.
When The Daily Times toured the market grounds recently, the traders wore a look of sober apprehension; they were like a people trading in apprehension of the dooms day, flinching from the thought that in four, may be five months from now, they would all be forced out of here, then what becomes of them…?
When the subject was mentioned for discussion, fear of the unknown was evident in their reactions; like how would they put their lives together if the place of their livelihood is moved some 100 kilometres away into the bushy area of Ikorodu?
The Chairman (provision and electronic section), Chief SundayOssai who has been advocating for the market men and women spoke the minds of the vast majority of the traders when he said relocation of the market is not the ideal solution to the problem of Mile 12. Putting the record straight, Ossai it was a long drawn ethnic crisis between Hausa and Yoruba residents in the area that led to the proposed relocation.
“That is where they are bringing the relocation logic from, and certainly there is no justification for that move because Agility, where the conflict erupted and ended is about 6 kilometres from here: we had no crisis in Mile 12 Market; it was the neighbouring communities that went after each other.
“The Igbos, Hausas and Yorubas here truly live as brothers and sisters, as one indivisible people. We don’t judge actions based on your tribe but by the content of your action and character. We have always lived peacefully in this Mile 12 market.”
Faulting government’s claim that traders had agreed to the relocation, Ossai said the traders were coerced by the State Government to agree to the relocation as a condition before the market would be opened after the bloody clash in the area. Surrounded by traders mourning their impending fate, Ossai gave a graphic picture of what transpired:
“We agreed under duress because the market had been closed for two weeks.
“We were hungry, our goods were rotting away and we were recording financial losses by the day.”
Looking beyond the flimsy reason for deciding the relocation, Ossai said that if for aesthetics to befit the Lagos mega city status, Mile 12 Market can be redesigned without relocation.
“It can be rebuilt to taste and style that will sooth the State Government rather than relocating it. If the government doesn’t have ulterior motive of converting the market into an estate as it is being speculated, they should develop the market with necessary infrastructure.”
“Mile 12 has a massive land mass that can contain the pressure of the sudden population even in hundred years to come and the desire of Lagosians is to still have West Africa’s largest food and perishable goods market within the city of Lagos, not at the outskirts.
“If government have good intention for Lagosians and the marketers, it should not be done by taking Mile 12 Market to the bush out of the reach of people.
“I have been opportune to travel to several countries including Dubai; world acclaimed mega cities and their foods markets are always located at the centre of the cities.
“The tradition is, they produce their crops in the bush and take it to the people in the city. Taking the market to Imota is like taking the food basket away from the people.”
Moreover, Ossai appealed to the government to put women into consideration in their plans; said he:
“There are old and young women from various parts of Lagos that are using ten-ten Naira to turn over things; they come around 5a.m.and go back home early after daily transactions so they can put food on the table for their families. Now, will this category of people afford to be going to far away Imota every day? Definitely no! Government is supposed to put food on the table of the masses – not to take it away.”
On security and environment
Ossai challenges rumours that Mile 12 Market constitutes security danger, environmental and traffic nuisance, and the allegations are far from the truth.
“On the environmental aspect, we have a very effective waste management disposal system that makes sure the environment is cleared everyday.
“In terms of security, our leaders are very intelligent, we have perfected intelligent ways of detecting and preventing crisis and making sure thieves don’t stay among us.
“it is only in Mile 12 that you can open your shop and not a pin will be stolen. I have heard about gangs of armed robbers within Lagos and they have never struck in Mile 12 market been so, where is the evidence that we constitute security danger?” He queried.
Addressing the traffic issue, Ossai said the market authority has effective task force committee that work from 6:30am–10:30pm to make sure the road is clear and ensure that no trader displays his or her goods beyond the walls demarcating the market.
“In dealing with the government, we are very loyal to the regulatory agencies of the government. No one can fault that; government assertion that we constitute nuisance is like giving a dog a bad name so you can hang it.
“We are just afraid if the government will not go to the extent of destroying us and destroying this market just because they want to relocate it.” Ossai concluded.
All the while the chairman was addressing our correspondent, other traders waited eagerly to voice out their fears. Chief Peter Udeh, a major marketer said they were taken aback by the announcement.
“I don’t understand it, that relocation announcement took us by surprise. We didn’t hear anything and government did not dialogue with us before taking the decision.”
Another trader who gave her identity as Mummy Emeka said, “For our Governor to just carry this market to Imota side now is not ideal. They should be patient with us and leave the market here (in mile 12) for more years.
Mrs lucky Onyeagbo said she was shocked to hear that the Mile 12 will be relocated; she said she has been on prayer since she heard the announcement.
“We are praying to God that they shouldn’t move it. We citizens put this government in power, let this government not deprive us of our daily bread; this market is where we hold our families together. Our customers cannot go to that bush place to buy food from us.”
Meanwhile, some marketers believe the move, if carried out will split the famous market.
One Garuba Ibrahim Yaro, who has been part and parcel of the market for over three decades, had this to say:
“If this market is moved to Imota, nobody in this market will be ready to go there. They will rather prefer to go to Kara market in Ogere (along Lagos Ibadan expressway), he said it will be easy for vehicles to move there due to the good road system.
“More than 80% of the market men and women here will prefer to trade in Ogere than Imota. What would Lagos state gain?”
A shopper who stopped by to voice her opinion, Madam Bridget said, “All these years the market has been within reach; by taking it to Ikorodu will bring another stress. Apart from that, if you see the great number of women coming from Badagry and Okokomaiko areas to Mile 12; you will know women are suffering.
“So tell government to pity women because they are suffering; they are suffering because of their children and they should be considered.’
Completely deviating from what appeared to be a general consensus however, one Sunny Otubor, a tricycle operator welcomed the State Government decision. “It is good, the place is congested as you can see and the relocation will not affect our business because people will still continue here and business will still continue here. If the market is moved, there may be lull in business initially, but with time, everything will stabilise and it will be better. Even the scenery will be so nice compared to the way it is now.”
In the same vein, the people of the troubled Agiliti praised the Lagos State Government for placing a total ban on motorcycle operators in the area. One of the residents said since the bikes were moved the environment has been sober, serene and peaceful. “They were causing a lot of nuisance in this area. Placing a ban on them has definitely reduced crime in our dear community,” he said.
The people however called on Gov Ambode to provide alternative employment for the displaced motorcyclists so they don’t constitute a worse kind of nuisance.
Until the six months elapse and the relocation is enforced however, Lagosians wait to see the immediate and long term effect of movingover 30 years old market from the city.