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‘Payback’ time, Ayegbaju shop owners tell Osun govt.

15 February 2017, 17:40

Osogbo - Ayegbaju International Modern Market in Osogbo was locked down on Wednesday, as protesting shop owners demand that the government adhere to the promise it made before allocation of papers for shops were released.

A day they were supposed to engage in business activities has become a day of protest, with many saying they could no longer bear what they claimed was a breach of contract and fraudulent transaction deals on the part of the government.

With various placards emblazoned “no to 28 years’ agreement”, “99 years’ agreement is what ‎we were promised”, “give us electricity and water”, “owo njo lo” and “we want to meet governor Aregbesola" amongst others, the protesting shop owners push for their demands.

Security officials had stopped them from gaining access into the Ayegbaju International Modern Market premises, but determined to make their grievances known, they stood outside the entrance chanting solidarity songs of "save our soul”.

They insisted that the reversal of the alleged initial outright ownership status given by the government to the shop owners that was later changed to 28 years, was not acceptable to them.

While a section of the shop owners is making demands for the reversal of the 28-year lease period, others have another reasons they had abandoned shops they paid as high as 500,000 Naira and had come out to the street. To this second set of shop owners, the issues they are raising are more important to them.

Not anti-government

The location and lack of electricity had affected their businesses, insisting that the site had defaced the market and made it lose the international status.

Since the allocation of the shops in 2014, as indicated by some allocation letters some of the protesters had, electricity supply has been poor. Two years have been spent without electricity, they claimed, a situation that had forced them to rely on generating plants for power.

Within the premises, some facilities ‎promised by the developer, Edward Management and the state government have not been provided, leaving the traders to their fate.

One of the shop owners, Toafeek Azeez, said: "We want to make our stance clear to the government. We are not anti-government. We are only against injustice. We are against 419 and scam. They promised they will be giving us a standing market here at Ayegbaju International Market, with the agreement that it will be an outright purchase of 99 years but to our surprise they gave us a document reading 28 years, and they are claiming they want to deal with us individually and not as a group. That gives us a signal that they want to scam us.

"If you look at the market now, it is almost five years that this market was built, it is not functioning. No water and no light.

“We want the government to come to our rescue. We cannot afford to lose our money. We paid as much as 2.5 million Naira and those who paid for open market paid about 350,000 Naira. It is not small money. They are not helping us. We do not care about party but about the welfare of our people. We bought the shop because the government promised us that we should buy it. They say they are fully involved, but we don't know Edward, we know Governor Aregbesola who asked us to invest in this market," he stated.

Mr Tunde Lawal is a retiree and he paid for a shop with part of his retirement funds.

“I invested about 1.3 million Naira in 2012, nothing to show for it.

“I invested part of my gratuity, but nothing has come out of it. I bought two lock-up shops here and I have nothing to live on now because I thought this market will take off immediately. In fact, by the time I invested here it was on level ground but now look at my fate. There is nothing to eat, as a retiree.

“I am begging the government to save my soul, I don’t have a shop. The money is being tied down and I don’t have investments elsewhere. I would have known what I would have realised, if I am selling pure water. I will be feeling fine. Please, tell me when I will begin to realise my dream?” he asked.

Another man who paid for a shop, Awojide Olabisi, also claimed that the government had promised outright purchase, only for her to see 28 years lease period in the letter.

“Those who were initially given 99 years, got their letters withdrawn from them in pretence and changed to 28 years. We are tired of the way they are treating us. We only came to buy shops and stalls here because the government convinced us to do so. All they promised us we have not seen anything at all. The government should wake up.

A high fence built around the market is supposed to provide security for the shop owners, but it is more of a cover, preventing passers-by from seeing the shops.

This, to Awojide is doing them more harm than good.

“Now they built a fence around the market and it is not visible to people outside who are to patronise us. They even built a hotel here in front. Please, is the hotel meant to cover the market? she asked angrily.

"The government told us that they will move others to this market but up till now, nothing has been done. The place is like a ghost market. People will be passing and they do not know there is a market here. No sales and we are tired," she lamented.

While they expressed their grievances, the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Osun State Investment Company Limited, Mr Bola Oyebamiji, tried to calm them, promising that the government would look into their complaints.

"‎It’s actually not a complaint but a town hall meeting. What we are going to do now is; we have the mandate of the governor to listen to them and to resolve all the anomalies amicably and we are going to do so very soon.

"The problem is between the development and the shop owners. The government is not involved per say, however, this is our environment. It is the duty of the government to maintain peace and that is why the governor insisted that we should be here to resolve the issue,” he told reporters.

- News24 Nigeria

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