Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM

No Freedom to Trade

No Freedom to Trade

As Freedom Market was demolished by Lagos State Govt

By Chinedu Bosah

To make the ruthless demolitions that have taken place across Lagos state, Freedom Market was bulldozed on Thursday February 5 2009. The market largely accommodates traders who deal in computers and its accessories, electronics and its accessories and motor parts. In the same way Oshodi, Iba, Berger Market etc., was ruthlessly demolished, Freedom Market was razed to the ground living nothing in sight. Several other markets across the state like Ladipo Market have also been slated for demolition. The market, which was a big complex and reportedly owned by one Dele Afolabi, was neither disturbing traffic nor free flow of persons and goods. Apart from being a private property, the market is about 40 meters away from the road (Oshodi-Apapa expressway mile 2).

Reminiscent of the Israeli military bombardment of Gaza, two special police squads (Government Monitoring Team and Rapid Response Squad) numbering over 58 armed policemen and about 200 hoodlums were led by one Superintendent Adebisi who claimed they had come on the orders of the Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Mr. Bolaji Abosede. All the traders around were ordered to leave the market premises without their properties and goods despite appeals from the traders

The angry traders who protested to the Lagos State House of Assembly on February 10 2009 complained that no notice was given by the government before the exercise. One of the affected traders, Mr Steve Ezeku, who spoke to DSM correspondent, claimed that he lost over N20million worth of properties to the demolition. The President of the traders’ association, Freedom Merchant Association, Mr. N.D Jonnel stated that over N5billion worth of goods and properties were destroyed, and the traders have no hope of survival. According to him, 9,860 main shops were destroyed; 85 houses and 200 attached shops were affected. This is coupled with the fact that about 10, 000 residents’ traders have been rendered unproductive. Other traders who spoke said that they have no other place to go and that the traders and their families have been plunged into deeper economic crisis.

On a visit to the site of the market on Thursday February 12 2009 by our correspondent, a woman of over 60 years, Mrs Juliet Obilo who wept openly said that she is a poor widow of 17 years and sells sachet water (pure water) at the market for the upkeep of her children. The demolition squad destroyed over 30 bags of her pure water and a refrigerator, leaving her with no means of livelihood and survival.

Also affected is a plastics factory owned by a Chinese woman who also came with the protesters to the House of Assembly. An ice cream factory within the complex was also affected. Most of the traders wondered why a government in the face of rampaging economic crisis would subject its citizens to such harrowing experience.

Some of the placards carried by the protesting traders numbered about 150 read: “Demolition of Freedom Market is illegal”; “This is democracy not military government”; Destruction not the answer”, save us in the name of the lord.”

Some of the traders however alleged that it is an attack on the Igbos and that the marginalisation of the Igbos in still on. Critical look at the demolitions in Lagos shows that the Lagos State government is insensitive to the plight of the poor irrespective of tribe, ethnic and religious status. The Demolition of Oshodi on Sunday January 4 2009 and other places affected all tribes and religions including the Yoruba’s. Though, the demolition of Freedom Market largely affected the Igbos, they are just victims of unpopular and anti-people policies. It takes a government like the one led by Governor Babatunde Fashola to destroy markets and hence, the livelihood of thousands of people without no alternative, such that do not appreciate that Nigerians are already going through harrowing economic experience. For any meaningful and sustainable development to be achieved, communities and the people (traders, artisans, okada riders etc.), must be carried along and their interest guaranteed.

As at 4pm on Thursday February 12 2009, the traders and their leaders are yet to get an official position from the government and Mr. Dele Afolabi on the reason(s) for the demolition, while the owner of the property is still playing hide and seek game with the traders. The traders who have severally gone to the Lagos State House of Assembly have been largely disappointed since the assembly has remained indifferent to their plight. The traders are still stranded as some of them come on a daily basis to the market to watch their ever busy market reduced to a graveyard waiting to know their fate. The global economic recession, which has more effect on third world countries like Nigerians, is being compounded by our leaders who have lost touch with the crisis confronting the people and the economic realities except guaranteeing their selfish interest.

The traders through the Chairman of the Board of Trustee, Mr Sylvester Umeaku on Thursday February 19 while addressing the traders stated that no compensation would be able to accommodate the agony, sorrow and damage done. He however reiterated their demands which are complete and comprehensive compensation to the tune of N5billion and that the traders are allowed to enjoy their leasehold.

The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) hereby call on the Freedom market traders to link their plight and struggles with other affected traders elsewhere and those already pencilled down irrespective of tribe, ethnic or religion to press home their demands and defeat the raging spate of demolitions in Lagos. Since the attacks on traders in Lagos are overwhelming, there is dire need for all traders in Lagos to have an association or union, which should be a tool to defend their socio-economic and political interest. This entails calling for meetings and setting up of mobilisation team in all markets; calling for a major day of action in order to press home their demands.

DSM demands adequate compensation and provision of alternative markets for the affected traders of Freedom Market and other demolished markets in Lagos. We also demand that the demolition of all places already marked for the exercise should wait until viable and affordable alternative markets are provided for the traders.