9th December, 2013
Tears flowed freely from traders this morning at the popular Abattoir Market in the Agege area of Lagos State, western Nigeria as officials of the state task force as well as policemen attached to the Rapid Response Squad demolished shops and stalls in the market.
Many of the traders were seen gathering the few goods they could salvage.
A trader in the market, who gave her name as Mrs. Timilehin, kept asking amid tears: “where do these people want me to go?”
She told P.M.NEWS that there had been rumours about a possible demolition of the market but that it had not been taken seriously until this morning.
“The demolition task force came here and started destroying everywhere. I was about opening my shop when they came.
“These are the only things I could remove before they chased me out,” she said, pointing at two baskets of tomatoes and pepper.
Another trader, Abdul Sanni, said the market had served as a place of abode and business.
“I sell tomatoes, pepper and onions and sleep here at night. I don’t have a house. Now, I don’t have a market or a house,” he said.
Asked why the market was being demolished, he said he did not know. “We thought it was a joke. I don’t know why they are destroying the market,” he said.
Another affected trader, Mrs. Ifeoma Eze, said the government had often complained about the environmental state of the market.
“Officials of the government had always complained that the market is dirty and that we needed to keep the place very clean since 95 percent of things sold here is foodstuff.
“I don’t know if that is why the government demolished the market.
“Members of the Lagos State House of Assembly who visited us recently confirmed that the market was cleaner than it used to be,” she said as she moved her wares into a mini-truck.
None of the government officials or policemen at the site agreed to speak on the reason for the demolition. “Contact the constituted authority. We can’t tell you anything, but we are following a directive,” one of them said.
A government official at Alausa who was contacted on phone by our correspondent confirmed that the demolition was carried out to make way for a modern market.
According to him, the traders were notified two months ago. “Last Friday, they were again reminded and this morning when the squad got to the market, we allowed them to move their things before the exercise commenced.
“They should have moved from the place, but they remained thinking the government would not go ahead with the demolition,” he said.
P.M.NEWS correspondent at the site of the demolition counted five police vans and over 15 heavily armed police officers.
The exercise resulted in serious traffic gridlock, stretching from the market to the Agric end of Agege.
—Eromosele Ebhomele & Yusuf Mohammed