Awolowo Market: How The Ingenuity Of A Street-wise Council Boss Saved His Council N1.7bn

The story of the reconstruction of a modernised Awolowo Market in present day Odiolowo/Ojuwoye Local Council Development Area of Lagos State dated back to over two decades.
It is the story of a good idea almost marred by unsavoury interventions occasioned by circumstantial occurrences and here we are today, the Awolowo Market reconstruction and modernisation is still generating controversies almost two decades after the idea was mooted, planned and commenced during the era of Senator Ganiyu Olanrewaju Solomon as the Chairman of the old Mushin Local Government.
When the project was conceived, it was agreed to be a public-private one with the contractor given the mandate to build, operate and transfer.
When the agreement was reached over two decades ago, not many believed it would dragged on like this with the project generating one controversy or the other.
The build, operate and transfer agreement was for 15 years and as at the time of writing this, the PPP agreement has elapsed without the controversies abating.
Along the line, there was creation of new local council development areas in the state and invariably, Awolowo Market fell under the jurisdiction of Odiolowo/Ojuwoye, thus the then new administration of Aremo Adeyemi Alli inherited the project alongside with its attendant controversies.
Aremo Adeyemi Alli, aware of the history of the market reconstruction and modernisation, kept strictly to the terms of the agreement reached with developer and the project went on course until…..
A blazing inferno gutted and destroyed the popular Tejuoso Market in Yaba leaving behind losses of billions of naira.
The then administration of Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN, took the decision to upgrade the destroyed market in Tejuoso and directed that the traders from the one destroyed by fire in Tejuoso be relocated to Awolowo Market.
It should be noted that Fashola was oblivious of the PPP arrangement between the council and the private developer on the Awolowo Market.
Of course, the private developer and the bank financing the project went to court, sued the council for breach of contract.
After much deliberation, it was decided that the matter be settled out of court.
The agreement reached was that the bank pays off the developer and third parties affected by the decision while the council settles the bank.
The bank duly paid off the developer to the tune of N50 million, and claimed to have setteld the third parties involved even without the involvement of the council, the major player in the deal.
This led to a new controversy: the bank now claims that the council is indebted to it to the tune of N1.2 billion and that was as at 2018. As at the time of writing this, the bank said the council’s indebtedness to it has risen to N1.9 billion.
The bank thought it had a fool proof case but never reckoned with the ingenuity of the Street-wise present Chairman of the council, Razaq Olusola Ajala.
The bank wrote to the council demanding procedure for payment of its debt threatening fire and brim stones.
Ajala was adamant in the council’s response that Odiolowo/Ojuwoye LCDA is not owing the bank.
Of course, Ajala has already spotted the loopholes in the claims of the Bank.
A meeting was called and he querried the bank’s claim of N1.2 billion debt. Aware that the developer was only paid N50 million, the council chairman wondered why the bank didn’t do due diligence in paying the third parties but went ahead and pay even without involving the council.
As it is, it is the council that can do the due diligence being directly involved with the traders as well as the other third parties and in fact the money meant for payment to the third parties ought to be directed through the council not the bank paying directly.
The claim of the bank that it had paid the third parties directly was suspicious hence didn’t stand any legal argument.
The argument went and forth for over two years before a truce was reached.
Thus, the debt was not only renegotiated but reduced considerably from N1.9 billion to N200 million and to be paid for a period of 40 months. And this is without any string or condition attached.
This is how the ingenuity of a streetwise council chairman saved his council a whopping N1.7 billion.

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