They are businessmen and women, who had crossed over into the New Year with lots of expectations. They had hoped 2013 would be better business-wise. But they were wrong as bulldozers of the Oyo State Government moved into market areas, demolishing shops and stalls and reducing them into debris. It was tears galore as they watched their shops being pulled down.
The demolition initially began with shops and stalls in the outskirts of the city such as Apata, The Polytechnic Road. But the exercise took another dimension when it extended to the inner parts of the city, including Ogunpa Market, Molete, Gate, Agbeni, Beere, Ogunpa, Amunigun and Agbaje, Olorunsogo, Olomi and many others.
Since government commenced the demolition of illegal structures late last year in line with its urban renewal and beautification programme, no fewer than 400 such structures had been turned into rubbles.
Some of the shops and stalls were said not to have observed the required setback while others were illegally acquired. However, the traders claimed the government did not give them enough notice before the bulldozers moved in.
But, the authorities justified the measure. For instance, they noted that Ogunpa Market was one of the most popular markets in the metropolis, but, due to the clustering nature of the market, several devastating fire disasters had been recorded in which property worth several millions of Naira were destroyed.
The situation coupled with the dirty environment forced government to recently order the immediate closure of the market.
One of the affected traders who claimed to be a member of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) but did not want her name in print lamented that even as a member of the party she saw no sense in the way and manner the demolition was carried out: “How can you be demolishing shops and stalls without first providing alternatives for the traders? How long will it take before the government finishes the construction of the market it is taking us to?
What does the governor want us to be eating before the resettlement? “It has not been easy for many of us. I am a mother with four children and dependants, it has been difficult for me. Many of my customers do not know how to locate me because I do not have any shop again. I do not even have money to get another shop.”
The woman, a textile dealer at Agbeni market added: “I have to be staying beside the road to display my wares and the government officials are even arresting us. What do they want us to be eating?”
Mr Nojeem Adenuga, a footwear seller, however, said: “If the government will be fast about resettling us, it is better. People will be disappointed if it is not done in time, because to many it’s like they are determined to subject us to suffering.
“They sent us away from our shops without any alternative and the governor is telling us to show understanding. What kind of understanding, when our source of livelihood has been blocked? But I believe he will do the right thing.”