26 February 2013

Nigeria: Lagos Shuts Down Ladipo Market, Arrests Bakassi Boys

Lagos State Government Monday closed down Ladipo market, reputed to be West Africa's largest auto spare parts market over what it described as proven cases of environmental nuisance and abused of public installations.

Officials of the Lagos State Taskforce on Environmental and Special Offences (Enforcement) Unit sealed off the multi-billion market almost one week after Commissioner for Environment; Mr. Tunji Bello, inspected the market and established gross abuse of public infrastructure and utilities.

Consequent upon the unacceptable use of the market, operatives of the taskforce took over and cordoned off the entire area as early as 4 a.m., thereby preventing both traders and buyers from gaining entrance.

Chairman of the taskforce, Mr. Bayonle Suleiman, led security operatives to effect the closure of the market, where about ten members of a South-east anti-crime vigilante group, Bakassi Boys, were arrested.

Restive traders were denied access to the market by taskforce officials with several canisters of teargas shot in the air to ward off the traders as hundreds of policemen kept the them at bay. An Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) was stationed at the Toyota end of the expressway, while the area was barricaded with fierce looking officers of the taskforce and Rapid Respond Squad (RRS).

Speaking with the journalists, Sulaiman said the state government had lots of issues with the market, ranging from hooliganism, lack of toilet facilities, degradation of the environment with diesel and fuel products. He added that the traders in the market formed another government.

He explained that the taskforce officials came to the market two weeks ago, but the leaders of the market did not show up.

"There are serious trading going on in the streets and there are lots of shanties here. We will make sure that this time around, proper sanitation is done by the traders before this market will be re-opened and they have to submit to the Chairman of Mushin Local Government Area," the task force boss said.

At this instance, Bello said the state government ordered the closure of Ladipo Market after several meetings and warnings with the market leadership and traders about the deteriorating state of the market.

He added that the environment "is seriously polluted and degraded with oil; surrounding canals are dumped with full and half engines spare parts and human waste, while illegal structures were built along drainage path and all the canal setbacks have been turned to shops and trading points.

"A visit to the place shows street traders have taken over the inlet and outlet to the market. Residents petitioned the state government about lack of access to their homes and property. These traders have degraded all the major access roads to the market which needs remediation rehabilitation," he stressed.

Bello, however, gave some of the conditions, which the commissioners explained, might warrant re-opening of the market included: complete removal of all illegal structures and attached structures built along canal paths and that traders must be confined to the main markets.

He said under no condition must they trade or solicit for customers on the main road, they "must remove all shops attachments built round the market/canals, remove all derelict and abandoned vehicles packed within the market as far as the expressway, remediate all forms of degradation on the roads and market area, sort out waste management issues with LAWMA as they cannot continue to dump into the canals, ensure total cleaning of the entire market and adjoining streets which they have degraded, among others."

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