The Closure of Ladipo Market
…beyond the fiction
By Kelechi Deca
Since the closure of Ladipo Market about nine days ago, a lot have been said on why that market was shut down on the orders of the Lagos State government. Using environmental sanitation as a plank, the Lagos State government pulled the wool over the eyes of Lagosians many of whom are unaware of the issues behind the façade of environmental concerns. Worryingly, the government went to town with photographs of some young men it alleged were ‘Bakasi’ boys terrorizing traders in the market. But it failed to inform the public that those same people, inhumanely paraded as criminals and locked up at Badagry prisons were staff of a duly registered security outfit that provides security for the market and that the Ladipo Main Market Traders Association (LMMA), the Mushin Local Government and even the Police are aware of their activities. The government is aware that before they were contracted, there were widespread insecurity in the market, theft of goods were very common and harassment of customers the order of the day. But why did the government and its agencies turn around to take some of the unfortunate actions they took at Ladipo Market?
Let us put the issues in perspective. The Lagos State government leased the land for the market to Mushin Local Government because according to it, the land is unfit for the purpose it want to use it for. This is contained in the agreement papers signed between the LASG and Mushin Local Government. And it is renewable after 25 years. As at that time, the Local Government could not develop the market thus in an agreement dated 13th February 2002, between Mushin Local Government and Paramo Development Ventures Limited, Plots 7, 8 and Block E, Oshodi Industrial Estate, Akinwunmi Street off Ladipo were sub leased to Paramo Development Ventures who invited the traders to develop the market themselves after paying the first mandatory N150,000 to Paramo.
According to documents at my disposal, Alhaji Hassan Olajoku chairman of Paramo was the one who sub-letted the land to the traders. In the agreement Paramo allotted the parcels of land to the traders through the Ladipo Main Market Traders Association (LMMTA), and the shops must be an accordance with designs and specifications approved by Lagos State Town Planning Authority and construction was also under the supervision of the Lagos State Ministry of Works and Housing as well as the Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning. Moreso, the traders were arm-twisted to purchase all building materials from the same Paramo in the guise said to ensure it meets safety standards stipulated by the State Government. Even the traders were made to enter an undertaking to support the political aspiration of Alhaji Olajoku, the chairman of Paramo Ventures. All has been going well until the death by assassination of Alhaji Olajuko in Osun State and the takeover of the company by one of his wives. As they say, a Pharaoh that knows not Moses has ascended the throne.
At the death of Alh Olajoku, one of his wives, Mrs Sherifat Disu, a Commissioner of Police in a bid to control the market allegedly met with officials of Mushin Local Government with aim to impose a new set of market leaders. She got the support of Mushin Local Government which felt that the N100, 000 monthly per shop it is getting could be raised under a new leadership. Failing to achieve this, she employed all forms of tactics from the use of government agencies (KAI) to the use of thugs and Police harassment and intimidation. Several attempts were made on the lives of the leadership of Aguiyi Ironsi Market and several petitions were written to the Inspector General of Police in this regard. There have been several instances of in the last two years where thugs invaded the market with dangerous weapons shooting traders; they equally destroyed the union office of the traders carting away valuables inflicting injuries on many of the traders. Still the government looked the other way.
Aside the quest to control the leadership of the market, the current management of Paramo Ventures in concert with Mushin and Lagos State government have a more sinister plan to push out the traders and take over the shops without recourse to the terms of the agreement. Moreso, the Lagos State Government through its agents have shown a cross disregard for the law boasting to the traders that they can go to all the courts in the state and nothing will come out of it because they control the courts. A look at the inhumane bail conditions of the traders will confirm this. Paramo overstepped its bound by raising a parallel leadership that is not signatories to the original agreement sub leasing the plots of land to the traders which the traders rejected. The failure of this led to the invitation of thugs and criminals to cause mayhem in the market as pretext to shut it down.
The question Lagos State government should answer is why shut down the entire market if you have issues with only Aguiyi Ironsi Trade Complex. Secondly, why are you interested in controlling the leadership of the market? Third, why use environmental concerns as excuse when the same government is aware of this environmental challenge which was why it abandoned its earlier plan to make use of that space in the first place?
Moreso, there are recorded (video) evidence of allegedly sponsored attacks on the traders by thugs contracted by Paramo and Mushin Local Government while the LASG task force watch in delight.