Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM



(By Moshood Osunfurewa, DSM, Ajegunle, Lagos)

The recent closure and later re-opening of the three markets in Ajegunle, a downtrodden Lagos community whose population mostly live from hand to mouth, without a tenable reason shows clearly how far the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) is from the masses.

The closure and re-opening of Alayabiagba, Alaba, Odun-Ade markets turned out to be a deliberate extortionist policy with its attendant implication for traders and the communities. The excuses provided by the authority were that the markets are dirty and people sleep in the market. On one hand, it confirms the failure of the private sector driven refuse disposal management while on other hand, it is an indication of the high rate of homelessness. Who is to be blamed even if markets were dirty? Constitutionally, the local government authorities are in charge of markets but have woefully failed in making sure that markets are run properly.

More so, the market leaders (Baba Loja and Mama Loja) were usually imposed on the traders by those in government for political reasons. Most of these markets leaders are used by the state and local government authorities to periodically extort money from traders and to mobilize votes for the political party in power during election. Hence, whenever, the interest of traders clash with that of politicians in power, the market leaders have no choice than to follow the dictates of those in power.

This method of choosing market leaders in many of these markets is largely responsible for the maladministration. It explains why the market leaders and the local government authorities keep extorting monies from the traders without any form of accountability. It is as well the reason why the market leaders keep quiet when the state government closes markets and forces the traders to contribute huge sums in form of fine or bribe.

The Ajegunle Peoples’ Movement (APM), the community association initiated by member of DSM, sent solidarity letter to the market women and men including the market leaders and suggested how best the traders can pursue their interest but the bureaucratic leadership are not ready to defend the interest of traders but ensured that money exchanges hands leaving market women and men to contribute huge sums to pacify the authorities before the markets were reopened. This method of closing markets to force traders into bribing the authorities at the state level is common and many markets across the state have suffered this fate for the same spurious excuse. Sometimes, these markets are closed for several weeks while traders suffer. This is one of the factors responsible for the high cost of food and other items.

The second argument that people sleep in the market does not only show the horrible scenario confronted by thousands of Ajegunle but also an indication of the huge deficit in the housing sector. Many youths sleep in the markets or on the streets since they cannot afford to build or rent a house. Many of the houses in Ajegunle are overcrowded with inadequate ventilation.

The ongoing demolition of cemetery market which is located behind the Ajeromi-Ifelodun local government secretariat has further worsened the living condition of traders and their families. Several markets have been forcefully acquired by the Lagos State Government only to be rebuilt and rented or sold to rich traders. Popular Tejuosho Market located in Yaba is one clear example.

Government has to rebuild these markets putting in place basic amenities like toilets, packing space, effective waste disposal system, adequate drainage system etc., and making the markets affordable for low income traders. For effective administration of these markets, there should be a committee made up of elected traders, elected members of the communities and local government appointed qualified experts. This is the only way the markets can be best run and interest of traders and the communities is protected.