Traders, artisans weep as Lagos demolishes Festac buildings, market

Traders, artisans weep as Lagos demolishes Festac buildings, market

Residents and traders of FESTAC Town watched helplessly on Sunday as officials of the Lagos State task force demolished the popular Agboju Market, shanties and other illegal buildings on the town's former Buffa Zone.

NAN reported that traders, mechanics and other artisans operating at the area counted their losses as bulldozers turned their goods, stores and workshops into rubbles.

The place is located on 2nd Avenue FESTAC Town.

Reports said that the task force was working for the Federal Housing Authority.

When contacted, both the leader of the task force and a representative of FHA at the scene refused to comment on the development, adding that they did not have the authority to speak on the matter.

More than 100 shops, shanties and other buildings were pulled down by the task force.

While some traders and artisans hurriedly moved out some of their wares and tools, many of them could not.

Some churches operating at the place were also seen moving away their property, removing the roofs and gates in anticipation of the demolition.

As at the time of this report, however, no church building was pulled down.

Sources said that the FHA gave the affected occupants a notice of the demotion a week ago.

Many traders and artisans were seen moody and lamenting. They told NAN that they were fed up with challenges.

Vice President, Amuwo Odofin chapter of Nigerian Automobile Technicians Association (NATA), Mr Isaac Kadiri described the demotion as a disaster.

"We believe that if government wants to chase us away, it should give us an alternative but it just gave us seven days' notice to leave.

"We had an alternative place at 6th Avenue that was given to us by FESTAC Town Residents Association and Federal Housing Authority but the place is not ready.

"We put the access roads here, but look at what we are losing. We have lost more than 100 million here. What we have lost here we can't gain back.

"We have mechanics, battery chargers, vulcanisers, panel beaters and painters as our members.

"We were served the seven days' ultimatum through Lagos State Task Force, which claimed FHA invited it to carry out the demolition."

Kadri called on government to urgently provide an alternative place for the artisans and others affected by the demolition.

"We want government to give us a place where we can earn our living. If it says the site is ready tomorrow, we will move.

"We were paying rent to Amuwo Odofin Local Government. We are paying tax to Lagos State Government. We pay rent of N10,000 each, per annum. We are more than 5,000 artisans."

An affected panel beater and painter, Hamad Tijani, said: "When we got here, it was just bushes and swamp; nothing was here but we sand-filled the place and many people are benefitting from here now.

"Government should help us as citizens of this country, there is no place for us to go."

A local mechanic, Mr Fatai Onidolu, alleged that the place allocated to the artisans by FHA at 6th Avenue had been sold.

"So where do they want us to go now? They gave us seven days' notice which is too short to find an alternative. Why are they treating us this way?"

A cleric in Festac Town, who pleaded anonymity, appealed to FHA to show mercy to the affected occupants.

He said that many Nigerians were undergoing hardship occasioned by COVID-19 pandemic, insecurity and economic downturn, and didn't need additional troubles.

The cleric said that though the government has a right to its property, the timing of the demolition was wrong and the notice short.