Computer Village, located in Ikeja, Lagos is arguably the biggest computer and allied products market in the West African sub region.
Daily, huge sums of money exchange hands between buyers and sellers of phones, laptop computers and many other devices in the market. The market has also proven to be one of the biggest employers of labour as thousands of youth struggle to eke out a living by repairing phone and laptops. However, like most markets in Lagos, Computer Village is always overcrowded and this has been a source of worry for all stake holders in the market.
The Otigba area of Ikeja where the market is located was once a residential area with no plan to accommodate such a big market but today every house in the area has been converted into shops and offices at very high rates. Due to the thriving phone and computer sales and repair business in the market, even the kitchens of many houses in the area are rented out as shops. On the streets of the market, different sizes of makeshift kiosks litter everywhere. Walking through the market to make a purchase could be a terrible experience. Mindful of this problem, the Lagos state government announced over three years ago that it wanted to relocate the market to Oke Ado area of the state.
The state government planned to relocate the market to Katangowa market in the area and move traders in Katangowa market to another area. Since the announcement of the relocation plan nothing appears to be happening and there are insinuations that the state government may not be serious about the plan. It was revealed that the only effort the state government has made concerning the relocation plan is to organise a pre-qualification bid for interested companies for the construction of the Katangowa market. Our checks also revealed that no effort has been made to relocate traders at the Katangowa Market.
Although a source within the government said the plan is on course, most traders who spoke to our correspondent say they are worried over the delay in the relocation plan. A trader in the market, Johnson Ekwe wondered why three years after the pre-qualification exercise was carried out, no actual bidding exercise has been conducted. He said: "We were happy when government announced the relocation plan. Our thinking was that within a short period, everything about the relocation will be concluded and work will commence at the site. Really as things stand now, we don’t know if the state government is still serious with the plan. Let government conduct the bidding exercise if they are serious and let the best company be contracted to do the job."
Another trader, Ifeanyi Okoro believes that there maybe forces behind the scene trying to frustrate the relocation plan. He said: "I can tell you that not many stakeholders were happy with this plan to move us to Katangowa market and this is understandable because that part of Lagos is really not conducive for our kind of business. Aside from the fact that the road to the place is terrible, the location is just not good for business. Many people come here from different parts of the state and country to buy things from us because this market is located in a central area. I can assure you not many customers will take the pain to come to Katangowa market since it is on the outskirts of Lagos. I would not be surprised if some stakeholders who are not happy with that location may be trying to frustrate the plan."
Another trader who does not want his name mentioned said that owners of buildings in the area who charge exorbitant rent are also not happy with the relocation plan. The trader who said he pays N750,000 for his shop noted that some owners of buildings in the market are still going around to ask their tenants for advance rent and telling them that the relocation plan will not work. He said: "My landlord is still asking me to pay advance rent for my shop. When I asked him about the relocation plan, he just simply told me that it may take ages before that plan materialize."
A landlord, Akeem Lasisi who spoke to the correspondent however said he preferred that the market is relocated as the area has become too congested. Whether the state government is serious about the relocation of the market or not, it is pertinent to note that previous efforts by government to relocate markets in the state, have not been successful. Some time in 2010, the state government tried to relocate building material sellers from Coker in Orile Area to Satellite town area. Only a few of the traders relocated to the site while majority remained in the former site. Similarly, the state government effort to also relocate trader at the Idumota market to another location failed. It is hope that computer village relocation plan will not suffer the same fate.