Retail Traders Decry Demolition of Oshodi Market
Several Small Retail Traders in Lagos, who operates their businesses in the popular Oshodi Market, returned from the holidays to face their worst nightmare in the New Year 2009. They have been rendered jobless! I guess they never imagined that the Lagos State Government will demolish their places of businesses without providing alternative location. Well, that is what the Lagos State Government did on the 4th of January, 2009.
Government and Elites Argument In Favor of Market Demolition
Governor Fashola wants to transform Lagos from a “garbage and lawless” city to a world class mega city. Well, I’ll say “That is a beautiful vision and commendable!” Many of the city elites justify the government action by arguing that too many of the traders were carrying out their businesses on the road and constituting a real nuisance to motorists and other road users. Well, I know that is true. But there can’t be smoke without fire.
Traders Argument Against Market Demolition
Government has not been providing affordable shops and stalls for petty traders. They only build ultra modern markets that are meant for the rich. For example, how many “bole seller” (roasted plantain petty trader) can pay for government built stalls? Since man must eat, we were forced to continue street trading! Well that sounds like a valid point to me, but then, the law must be obeyed. So, I will state my personal opinion on the matter.
A successful entrepreneur is one that plans and ensures that his/her operations fall within what the Law of the land considers as acceptable practice. So, many of the traders knew that it is illegal to trade on the streets and roads. Yet because of the non-enforcement of the law by the government agents, street trading and conducting business transactions on roads and railways have become the norm among them. So, each trader that has lost in this demolition has a portion of the blame. However, that does not mean that the Government have done well.
The government agencies responsible for town planning have performed poorly over the years. As the population of the city explodes, they have done nothing to cater for the needs of the growing population. The Oshodi Market that was established, as a Flea Market, by the local indigenes over hundreds of years ago was left unattended to, and naturally, the market have spread beyond the original boundaries unto the roads and railway.
Those local government agents who have been collecting taxes and levies from these traders for years without providing decent place for them to carry out their businesses must be crooks. Yes, the taxes and levies collected from the traders who were operating illegally on the road cannot be justified. It can best be classified as bribe!
The Lagos State Government knows fully well that flea markets is part of African culture, Africans especially Nigerians love flea markets, so there is need to provide open ground locations within the city for petty traders to carry out their business. A “bole ” trader will never agree to pay for a shop or stall. Just give her a little space to display her product and sell to people. The government cannot sweep this need under the carpet. That is what I see them trying to do in this case. This can have serious consequences for the Lagos population.
Several young men who have been earning their daily bread through hard labor in Oshodi market are now rendered jobless and hopeless. Lagosians should pray that those young men will not turn to crime. Or better still Governor Fashola should be advised to provide alternative business location at affordable cost for those traders. This will be for the good of all. This is Lagos, Nigeria, not New York or Paris. There is a common saying in Nigeria “man must wack” It simply means, a man must eat, and will do anything in desperation when starving. Whether Lagos Government likes it or not, those displaced Oshodi Market Traders are crying, “man must wack”.
The Governor’s vision of making Lagos a mega city that will attract tourists is a good idea, but the vision will remain an unfulfilled dream if the poor people among the populace are denied means of livelihood and are left uncatered for. Victoria Island, Ikoyi, Lekki etc might not be so safe if millions on the mainland are rendered jobless, homeless and hopeless.
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