By Dare Ojelade, Lagos
The Chairman of Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area of Lagos State, Valentine Buraimoh may have a contempt of court charge hanging on him and ultimately a jail term over the demolition of Olorunda Oyinlola Market in Festac Town despite the matter being a court case, reports The Gazelle News.com.
The demolition of the market has been a thug of war between the local government and the traders and when it seems dialogue cannot resolve the matter, the traders had no option than to approach the law court.
Thus on Tuesday, 8 December, 2020, the traders, through their lawyer, Ike E. Onyefulu, approached a Lagos High Court in Ikeja seeking the court’s order to stop the Amuwo Odofin Local Government, the Federal Housing Authority and the Lagos State Government from “any further trespass by way of entering, surveying, evacuating, digging up, laying any foundation, building, constructing or by any means developing or redeveloping all that parcel of land of the claimants situate, being, lying and known as Olorunda Oyinlola Market, 23 Road, Festac Town, Lagos State, pending the determination of this suit before the Honourable Court”.
Despite this legal action, the Valentine Buraimoh led Amuwo Odofin Local Government stormed the market on Saturday, 12 December, 2020 with bulldozers, armed policemen and thugs to demolish the market.
The local government did not stop there. On Tuesday, 5 January, 2021, Buraimoh personally performed the foundation laying ceremony of a new ultra modern market on the site of the demolished market in defiance of the court.
Going back memory lane, investigation by The Gazelle News.com indicated that in 1984, FHA demolished the Second Gate Market at Festac Town operated by the traders. Then, operating under the aegis of Festac Town Market Women Association, the traders made appeal to then Military Governor of Lagos State, Late Gbolahan Mudashiru and the local government then still operating as Badagry Local Government.
After much appeals, FHA allocated a permanent site to Amuwo Odofin LG then still part of Badagry Local Government for the resettlement of the traders, a 2.6 hectares of land within Festac Town were allocated for the resettlement via a letter dated 14 January, 1985 and signed by the late Mudashiru.
The letter from the state government ordered the local government to supervise the construction of stalls and shops in the allocated land and between 1994 and 1995, the local government, allocated the market site to the traders on the conditions of payments of some fees to which the traders obliged.
The Gazelle News.com learnt further that despite collecting the fees from the traders, the local government never developed nor constructed the market as contained in the letter from the state government on the resettlement of the traders, yet continued to collect all manners levies and fees from the traders.
Despite not refunding their original money meant for the construction of the market, the traders resulted to build their stalls and shops in line architectural designs and structural details approved by the local government.
The Gazelle News.com discovered that on 17 September, 2020, the Buraimoh led Amuwo Odofin Local Government forwarded a letter to the market executives. The letter, dated 15 September, 2020, indicated the intention of the local government to turn the market into ‘ultra-modern’ one.
The panic-stricken traders stormed into action and meetings were called twice with the local government adamant on its ultra-modern market plan.
The traders’ requests which include but not limited to: definite resettlement or alternate plans pending the construction of the ultra-modern market, re-absorption of the displaced traders, and creation of the ultra-modern market in a different location were ignored.
When the meetings were not having headways, the traders instructed their solicitors to write to the local government on the illegality of the planned ultra-modern market.
Upon receiving the letter from their solicitors, the local government invited the traders to a meeting and informed them that the planned demolition and reconstruction of the market was on the directive of the state Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
The traders’ solicitors wrote to the Governor on the need to call the Amuwo Odofin Council Chairman to order but there was no response, either from the Governor or any agent of the state government.
Thus, paving the way for the local government to demolish the market on Saturday, 12 December, 2020 without any prior notice for the traders to evacuate their wares and valuables.
When The Gazelle News.com sought the reaction of Valentine Buraimoh, Chairman of Amuwo Odofin Local Government on Wednesday, 6 January, 2021, a day after he laid the foundation stone of the ultra-modern market on the disputed site despite legal action, an aide picked the call. He told our correspondent that the Chairman was in a meeting, that we should send our questions via text.
Our did and asked the following questions (1) need for your reaction to the allegation that your administration demolished Olorunda Oyinlola Market without notifying the traders or give them any notice to evacuate their wares and valuables; (2) it was also alleged that the market was demolished even while there is a court case on it which may constitute contempt of court on your part; and (3) that you demolished the market without any plan to compensate or resettle the traders who were original owners of the market.
As at the time of writing this report, neither Buraimoh nor any of his aides and local government officials have responded to our enquiries.
Yet, work has commenced on the construction of the new ultra-modern market, despite the fact that the case is in court.
On the need for the state government intervention, The Gazelle News.com contacted the state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotoso, via a WhatsApp message on Saturday, 9 January, 2021 that went thus:
“Good afternoon, Hon Commissioner, my name is Musbau Rasak of The Gazelle News.com.
We are investigating the crisis between the Amuwo Odofin LG and traders at Olorunda Oyinlola Market over the demolition of the market.
It was alleged that the council chairman, Valentine Buraimoh, told the traders that the market is being demolished on the order of the state Governor.
Please is this the true narrative?
There has not been any response from the Commissioner.
Keep a date with The Gazelle News.com as we unfold the drama on the disputed ultra-modern market.