The ever-busy Lagos International Trade Fair Complex along the Lagos-Badagry expressway was yesterday shut for few hours before it was later opened to traders who were already stranded and confused over the development.
As a result, the traders went on a protest match over an alleged hijack of the complex by a popular politician in Lagos. Others said it was to protest against the forceful takeover of the complex by the Federal Government.
The Guardian gathered that the protest was linked to an ownership tussle between the government and the traders, owing to the state's decision to concession the complex to new operators last year. President of Balogun Business Association (BBA), Tony Obih, said the protest was to bring to the world's notice the injustice that would be meted out to them if the government re-allocates ownership of the complex.
He said most of them have allocations, which had been running on long lease agreements of over 50 years since 2000. The agreement was reached with the government and it also stated an option of renewal for another 50 years.
It would be recalled that the complex had been a subject of conflict over planned concession by the Federal Government. The Lagos Trade Fair complex was concessioned to Aulic Nigeria Limited in 2008. However, the National Council on Privatisation had in September 2018, approved the revocation of the concession of the complex.
But the trade groups at the complex, under the platform of Forum of International Trade Fair Complex comprising Auto Spare Parts and Machinery Dealers Association, ASPMDA, Association of Progressive Traders of Nigeria, Call Park Ventures Limited, C-Tempo International Limited, Balogun Business Association/International Centre for Commerce, Mandillas International Trade Centre/Mandillas United Traders Association of Nigeria, Associiation of Nigeria Tyre Marketers, Lagos International Trade Fair Plaza Owners Association and Tools and Hardware Dealers Association, launched series of protests to object the move.
General secretary of BBA, Joan Okpala, said though the case is in court, he feared that if the market is handed over to the wrong people, it could threaten people's jobs.