Alaba International Market, one of the largest markets in Lagos State, has been closed indefinitely due to an alleged plot to burn it down. The closure of the market was born of a bloody face to face between traders and transport unionists on Wednesday, collected Saturday Tribune.
While the Lagos State Police Command told the Saturday Tribune only one person died in the scuffle, a market leader was quoted by another outlet as saying three people were killed and 28 others injured.
However, in an exclusive chat with Saturday Tribune, Alaba International Market Traders Association President Geoffrey Mbolu said, “I can only confirm the death of one person now. Many others were injured and are hospitalized. The shooting was massive. Many of our members have been slaughtered.
When Saturday Tribune contacted the Oniba of Ibaland, Oba Sulaimon Adeshina Raji Ashade, who has the market and union members under his jurisdiction, the traditional ruler refused to talk about the crisis. He asked our correspondent to call back. Subsequent calls to him went unanswered.
State Police Command image maker Benjamin Hundeyin, however, told the Saturday Tribune that state police are monitoring the market.
Confirming that only one body had been found so far, Hundeyin revealed that five suspects had been arrested in connection with the crisis.
“Only one body has been recovered and we have arrested five people in connection with the incident. The investigation is still ongoing,” he said.
Since the last bloody clash, reports of the impending relocation of the market by the state government have been circulating, adding to uncertainty over the fate of the multi-billion naira market.
The rumor was, however, denied by the Information and Strategy Commissioner, Mr. Gbenga Omotoso, in a conversation with Saturday Tribune.
Omotoso said, “I haven’t heard anything about the market relocation. The exco (Executive Council) didn’t even discuss or say anything to that effect. Rumor is a conjectural imagination of those who spread it.
Findings showed that Wednesday’s clash between traders and union members under the aegis of the park administration, formerly known as the Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN), was the product of years of acrimony between the two groups.
Traders said they continued to live in fear, with their shops locked down following reports that suspected thugs were planning to invade the market again and set it on fire. Their leaders said they have decided to halt operations until the state government finds a lasting solution to the problem they are facing.
The Igbo Market representative on the Lagos Market Advisory Board and the Secretary General of the Ndigbo Farmers Market Association, Mr. Chinedu Ukatu, told Saturday Tribune that traders in the market had, for a long time, faced with the difficulties of the transport union’s activities around the market. axis.
The market leader said, “They (Alaba traders) have been complaining about the activities of the road transport union, otherwise known as ‘agbero’, and their infringement in the Alaba market corridor for a while. They brought in these people to collect the tolls and caused untold hardship to motorists and merchants.
“They (traders) have complained and we have tried to resolve this amicably in the past. Coming from both sides of the road you will notice that they take tolls on containers and such. Inside the market and next to the market, many tolls are collected.
“My attention was drawn by the management of the traders of the Alaba international market to the fact that the trade unionists wanted to build a park just in front of the market. Already, this road is crowded. It is already very difficult to navigate the market. It is still very difficult to cross the road.
“Traders are complaining. I don’t know who collects these tolls everywhere. The same people still want to set up a park in front of the market and make the place a nightmare for passers-by. When they called me, I told them to quickly have an appointment with the president of the local government to call these people to order, which they did.
Speaking on how the dispute turned into a bloody showdown, Ukatu said, “We told them this thing couldn’t work. It’s either you transfer these things to the Chemist bus stop or other places. Local governments have promised to look into the matter, but they have been unable to do anything. Their hands are tied. Residents were still invading the square and trying to set up a park and collect tolls.
“When they arrived, I told the leaders not to retaliate but to close their shops and leave. The ‘agbero’ regrouped and started attacking people at random. In this kind of situation, there were bound to be reprisals from our people, but because of what I told them, they abstained. The ‘agbero’ insist on imposing what they want on the market, which is unacceptable.
“We don’t tell them not to create their parks; we are only saying that it is not appropriate in the market environment because they will be a nuisance to people and block traders.
“Already you’ve taken an exorbitant toll from the people bringing the container. Okay, move somewhere outside the environment and that’s it. They were shooting. It’s recorded. It’s not not new. The other time they had trouble in Iyana Iba, they had guns and were everywhere. Many people were injured. Due to the tension, businesses closed indefinitely to ease the tension. It’s just so that peace reigns.
On how to resolve the crisis, he said: “Market management was in contact with the leader of the transport union before Wednesday’s attack. We will harmonize everything and look for the way forward. We will involve all the necessary authorities because we are looking for a permanent solution. We can’t go on like this.”
Complaint for open defection
Alaba International Market Traders Association President Mbolu, in an interview with Saturday Tribune on Friday, revealed that market management was unsure when the market would reopen following the alleged threats. thugs who he says have regrouped and are loitering around the market.
“The situation is calm now but we have no hope of reopening now as the thugs have threatened to come back and do worse. The report we have now is that they are threatening to burn down the whole market.
“If not for the intervention of the military, they would have attacked the market again yesterday (Thursday). They regrouped with weapons and were smoking Indian hemp at the Chemist bus stop.
Another trader who identified himself as Nwachukwu told the Saturday Tribune that in addition to the toll issues, “we also complained about open defecation and other unhygienic activities by ‘agberos’ around our market.
Nwachukwu said: They do not respect hygiene rules and they urinate and defecate in the open air. There are public toilets where we pay but they don’t use them; they prefer to urinate and defecate in the open.
“Many times we had disagreements about it because local government officials usually blame us for the dirty environment, even when they knew we observed sanitation every Thursday. They (the transport unionists) have repeatedly fought with our working group members over open defecation.
We demand an investigation – Market Union
Meanwhile, market leadership urged the state government to investigate the attack and bring the perpetrators to justice.
In a statement on Thursday, the union said, “It should be noted that this market brings in a considerable amount of revenue to federal and state coffers through unquantifiable international and local trade. It will therefore not be wise to allow non-state actors such as the operators of RTEAN/Park Administrators to bypass this national and state asset which houses several thousand large, medium and small companies.
He further sounded the alarm that traders are fleeing the market due to the attacks.
The statement read: “Let it also suffice to mention that traders are now leaving the market in droves, as the complete blockage of Alaba’s only road and the extreme extortion taking place, especially between the Volkswagen bus stop and the Alaba market, become unbearable. Traders are forced to pay on a fully cleared container or truck sums of between 70,000 and 100,000 naira before they can be allowed to transport their goods to market. The same is true for those who supply goods from their warehouses.
“For traders who cannot afford or are reluctant to pay, they are either beaten or injured. Unfortunately, it was only yesterday (Wednesday) that we woke up to the news that a new loading point was to be instituted on the already constricted Alaba road, which has already been taken over by small traders who have received portions to expose goods at the expense of existing traders, a development that completely disfigures this internationally renowned market.
“To ensure this matter is dealt with amicably, the merged Alaba leaders promptly contacted the Ojo local government chairman who promised to call them to order. We also contacted the chairman of the interim committee which also promised to call them to order but surprisingly on Wednesday October 19, 2022 we were greeted by chaos in our market.
“Thugs we cannot quantify swarmed the market with guns, machetes and other dangerous weapons, shooting and maiming shoppers and traders doing their legitimate business to the extent that some were killed and several others injured. .
“To that end, we want to say enough is enough. We call on the Executive Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu, to intervene in this matter before it escalates into a serious security concern.
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