The Lagos State Government says the demolition of Owonifari Market in Oshodi area of the state was done to further ensure security and bring sanity to the area.
The state’s Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Steve Ayorinde, gave the explanation at a news conference on Thursday while clarifying issues involved in the demolition exercise.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the State Government on Tuesday shut the market and ordered relocation of affected traders and shop owners to the newly built Isopakodowo market stalls at Bolade in the area.
The market was demolished from Tuesday night till the early hours of Wednesday.
Ayorinde said that the traders were formally served a quit notice on Dec.21 before the demolition exercise, through the Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development.
“The state government had been engaging with the leadership of the market to say that we could no longer continue with the manner in which that area of the market was being used.
“So, for 10 years, there has been back and forth engagement between the government and the leadership of the market,” he said.
Ayorinde said the leadership of the market, in the last three years, had refused to move.
“Certified that we have provided a befitting alternative, we started another round of engagement with the leadership of the market.
“The governor appealed to them through the Commissioner for Local Government and Community Affairs.
“They met with members of the state executive on Dec. 16, 2015, where the governor reiterated his plans for Oshodi and the need to relocate them.
“A few of them expressed certain misgivings, but largely, they felt that if their interests were accommodated within the Isopakodowo market that they were willing and ready to move.
“We advised that discussions should be ongoing, particularly regarding how much they will pay for each stall within the market,” he said.
Ayorinde said that on Dec. 21, 2015, the governor went on a tour of the market, particularly Isopakodowo Market, where he again met with the leadership of the Owonifari Market.
According to him, it was eventually agreed that, based on the proposition from the market leaders, what they were willing to pay for each market was N5000 monthly.
“There is really no market anywhere that you will be paying such an amount in a month for a market.
“The governor agreed with them and we said we were ready to concede.
“Along the line, convinced that our New Year project was to relocate them to Isopakodowo Market, we got intelligence reports that as at during the Yuletide, a number of criminal activities were going on there.
“We also got reports that the place was harbouring criminals and a number of untoward activities.
“This, of course, necessitated that we should move immediately to safeguard lives, property and to ensure that there was no breech of peace.
“This was what led to the demolition exercise,” Ayorinde said.
He said the intention of the government was certainly not to destroy any goods.
“We believe a good number of the traders, if not all, had moved because they were aware they needed to move.
“From reports, quite a good chunk of them acknowledged that they were properly served and that they were ready to move; many of them packed their things just before the end of the year.
“Government, I should say, will not be blackmailed because we have done everything humanly possible.
“We believe very strongly that Isopakodowo Market is quite ideal, a lot bigger than where they were,” he said.
Ayorinde said the aim of the government was to ensure that the area of the market conformed with the type of image that it wanted the state to be.
“It is to return sanity to the place, to beautify the market and construct a world class bus terminus around the place.
“We also believe the exercise will largely reduce the gridlock that is associated with that area and the criminalities that were rampant in Oshodi.
“What we have done is in the interest of the generality of residents,” he said.
Also speaking, the Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Babatunde Adejare, who was present during the demolition exercise, said the Owonifari market had become a den of notorious criminals.
“I was present during the demolition, the traders had removed their goods; there was only one shop where we met goods and the goods are with us,” he said.
The Commissioner for Local Government and Community Affairs, Mr. Muslim Folami said a bunker was discovered in the market during the demolition.