The private developer of Alade Market, Lagos, has debunked claims that he invaded the market with armed thugs to harass traders.
Lai Omotola, the Managing Director of Master Reality International Concepts Ltd, said in a statement Sunday that the traders accusing him of forceful eviction were not genuine ship owners in the market.
“There was never a case of invasion into the Alade Market or forceful ejection of traders and shop owners from the market,” said Mr. Omotola, the concessionaire of the soon-to-be-built Alade Shopping Mall.
“Rather, series of dialogue and peace meetings were held among three key parties: Ikeja Local Government, Association of Alade Market Men and Women and the concessionaire.”
The Ikeja Local Government in 2010 concessioned the market to Mr. Omotola’s company to invest N6.9 billion for a 30-year project on a Build, Own, and Transfer (BOT) basis.
Some traders, last Friday, alleged that the developer used armed thugs to invade the market to harass them into moving out.
In an open letter to Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, last Wednesday, Jiti Ogunye, a lawyer, accused the Ikeja Local Government of conniving with Mr. Omotola to replace the market with a shopping mall through the backdoor.
Mr. Ogunye, counsel to a traders’ association in the market, said council officials had continued to forcefully eject traders from their stalls despite a pending lawsuit.
“The issues of whether our clients could be relocated from the said land is part of the issues being currently litigated at the High Court of Lagos State, Ikeja Judicial Division,” said Mr. Ogunye.
“It will, thus, amount to a grave abuse of rule of law to resort to self help while the issues are being tried before a competent court of law that is adjudicating the matter.”
In his reaction, Mr. Omotola acknowledged that an Ikeja High Court ordered all parties to maintain status quo ante until the substantive suit was determined, noting that the court made the order at the time the concessionaire had started work on the project site.
“There is no case of contempt here. Also, the court rejected an application in which the concerned traders were seeking to restrain us from executing the project. But the court did not grant the application.”
Mr. Omotola said peace meetings between key market stakeholders had yielded “enviable results,” adding that parties had agreed that an alternative market should be built to avoid undue disruption of commercial activities of the traders.
“In line with the resolutions of the peace meetings, the alternative market has been fully constructed,” he said.
“It was constructed at a location about 100 metres away from Old Alade Market with more parking lots, central generators, modern toilets, safe and secure environment and unhindered access & exit.
“After completing the alternative market, a group of concerned traders suddenly rose against the relocation of old Alade Market.
“The concerned traders are not shop owners in old Alade Market. They only rented shops from the original allotees and real tenants of the Ikeja Local Government.
“So, the concerned traders are never legal occupants of the market because there was never tenancy agreements between the local government and these traders.
“So, they lack legal grounds to either sue the parties or protest the relocation of the market.”
Mr. Omotola said “only 49 traders who never rented shops” from the Ikeja Local Government are the ones working against his project.
“We will not succumb to any blackmail from any quarters,” he said.
Credit: All Africa