Furore over Renewed Move to Relocate Lagos Computer Village

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The incessant threat by successive governments in Lagos State to relocate the Ikeja Computer Village Market is beginning to unsettle the traders, who have been expressing doubts over government’s sincerity of purpose, writes Emma Okonji

 

 The Lagos State government, last week, restated its decision to relocate the Ikeja Computer Village Market to a permanent trading site in Kotangowa, a suburb of Lagos in Okeodo Local Government Area of the state. The State Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Wasiu Anifowoshe, who made the disclosure, however explained that government was yet to come up with the blueprint for the planned relocation.

Disturbed by the renewed relocation plan by the state government, the traders, under the aegis of Computer and Allied Products Dealers Association of Nigeria (CAPDAN), visited the commissioner last Thursday, to seek clarification on state government’s renewed relocation plan. During the visit, the commissioner reassured the traders of government’s intention to relocate the market, but as usual, did not give any definite date for the relocation.

Although the traders were worried about the renewed plan, they are, however beginning to feel that the Lagos government is playing politics with the relocation threat, having made several failed attempts in that regard since 2004.

Fresh relocation plan

After several failed attempts to relocate the Ikeja Computer Village to its permanent trading site by past governments, the current Lagos State government, led by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode has again, insisted it would begin the process of relocation before the expiration of its first four years in office by 2019.

The Assistant Public Relations Officer of CAPDAN, Mr. Presley Ibadin, who spoke with THISDAY on the latest development, said the Lagos State government was bent on relocating the market, but promised it would carry along the leadership of the traders in its relocation plan.

“We visited the commissioner on Thursday last week to seek clarifications on the fresh plans to relocate the market, based on information we got, and the commissioner confirmed the fresh relocation plan. He, however, assured us that it was not going to be immediate, and that government would inform us on how it would go about the relocation process,” Ibadin told THISDAY in a telephone interview. He said the fresh plan on relocation had created fear among the traders, hence CAPDAN had to visit the commissioner to seek clarification.

Former Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who first initiated the move in 2004, had planned to relocate the traders to a permanent site in Katangowa, citing congestion at its current location as reason for the relocation plan. He could not achieve the plan before handing over government to his successor, Babatunde Fashola, who also made some attempts to relocate the market, but also failed. Now his successor, Ambode is making fresh moves to relocate the market.

Failed relocation attempts

Disturbed by the state government unending threat to relocate the computer market, CAPDAN, the only recognised umbrella body of traders in the market, before the emergence of several other factions, had in the past, approached the the Lagos State government for assistance to enable it begin construction work on the permanent site, but did not get government support.

The traders, however, decided to develop the new area themselves through CAPDAN, but met some challenges of land ownership tussle, which forced them to abandon the project, which they had already invested huge sum of money in.

During that period, some traders lost confidence in the leadership of CAPDAN, led by Mr. Tunji Balogun, who is the Chief Executive Officer of Brian Integrated Systems.

Mistrust among traders crept in, which resulted in the formation of several other factions that divided the once united CAPDAN and the entire computer village market.

In 2006, one of the factions approached the authority of Ikeja Military Cantonment to move the traders to its newly built market inside the barrack but several traders opposed to it, giving reasons that movement of buyers would  be restricted since it is a military barrack and they were afraid it would adversely affect trade.

All attempts to relocate the market, failed, and the traders had no choice but to remain in the congested market, and trading under different leadership factions.

In March 2014, the traders reunited and approached the Federal Ministry of Communications Technology to come to their rescue, which attracted the then Minister, Dr. Omobola Johnson to invite the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) into the scene. Through the intervention of the minister and NITDA, the traders secured a loan from African Development Bank and they were in the process of developing a new site for the market, before the state government stepped in with another fresh plan and a new contractor arrangement to develop the once abandoned Katangowa market.

The traders, who expressed their dissatisfaction over the delay by the state government to relocate the market long ago, however, pleaded with the state to ensure that the shops should be affordable to traders who were happy with the fresh relocation plan, which again failed like other past plans.

 

Another failed attempt 

In October 2014, the Lagos State government came up with another plan to relocate the computer market.

The plan to relocate the market was reached during a meeting between the Lagos State government; Bridgeways, the company contracted by Lagos State to handle the new market building project; and the leadership of CAPDAN.

It, however, took a lot of efforts on the part of Lagos government representatives to convince the leadership of CAPDAN on the sincerity of government to finally relocate the market. Some of the market leaders, who blamed Lagos government for their challenges, found it difficult to believe the sincerity of government in its renewed plan to relocate the market. They said the meeting only reminded them of their painful efforts to relocate the market years back and pointed accusing fingers at Lagos State government for foiling every relocation plan made by the traders in the past.

Addressing the three parties with the highest assurance of sincerity on the part of government to relocate the market, the then Commissioner, Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development, Mr. Olutoyin Ayinde, said Lagos government was ready to coordinate the process that would lead to the relocation of the market.

The State  Commissioner for Science and Technology at that time, Mr. Adebiyi Mabadeje, who was also present at the meeting, assured the traders of the state government’s commitment to relocate the market from its present location in Ikeja to Katangowa, which he said was easily accessible. Mabadeje called for full cooperation of the traders to enable the state government conclude the project in record time. But again, the attempt failed.

Traders’ concern

Some of the traders who spoke to THISDAY on the incessant relocation threat from the state government, said the traders have lost confidence in the state government, over its unending relocation plan.

Suspecting that the state government may be playing politics with the relocation, they advised the state government to develop the current location of the market in Otigba quarters in Ikeja, into a standard market with facilities such as parking space, link roads, water, and steady electricity.

“The current location is big enough for government to develop into a modern market. All that government needs do is to buy over the few remaining residential buildings in the location, relocate the owners of the buildings and develop the place. If this is done, government will generate huge money from the market, “one of the traders said.

 

History of computer village

The Ikeja Computer Village Market started in the early 70s with the gathering of few traders in the then residential area called Otigba Village. As the market grew over the years, and attracted more traders and buyers who were dealing mainly on computer and its accessories and later extended to mobile phones and their accessories, the traders automatically converted the residential area to a full market and named it Ikeja Computer Village market.

The market became a beehive of activities, attracting more buyers and sellers, to the extent that the limited space became choked up and movement of buyers within the market became difficult as a result of severe body friction during movement of persons who visited the market. Parking space for cars has also become a nightmare as cars could not be driven into the market due to lack of space constraints.