Oko Baba wood dealers appeal to Lagos State to reopen market
Wood dealers at the popular Oko Baba wood market have appealed to the Lagos State Government to reopen the market, almost four weeks after it was closed down allegedly on the orders of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode.
The market which is considered the largest of its type in West Africa was sealed off because of the poor sanitary condition, blocked drainages and dangerous activities of wood transporters who are fond of loading their wares on the Adeniji Adele end of the Third Mainland Bridge inward Herbert Macaulay Way.
The wood dealers comprising of sawyers, saw millers, pullers, engineers, pushers and transporters are now calling on the Lagos State Government to save them from the economic hardship brought upon them by the closure.
Rising from an executive meeting of all the associations operating in the market earlier in the week, the leaders of the various associations pleaded with the state government to come to their rescue and open the market for operations.
Alhaji Taiwo Ahmed Abdul Qadri, the Task Force Chairman of Sawyers Association said they have taken all steps necessary to get the government to urgently look into their plight.
“We are appealing to the Lagos State Government to reopen the market. We have sent emissaries to the governor, reached out to the Yaba LCDA Chairman, paramount rulers in Lagos and top politicians in the state to help us appeal to the governor.”
“Since the closure, we cannot feed, send our children to school and provide financial support to our families. We are not up in arms against the government, we are only appealing to the Governor to temper justice with mercy and reopen the market.”
Appealing further, the President Ifesowapo Nigeria Timber Association, Okanmiyon Mafinuyomi, said what led to the closure of the market was caused by a small group of people in the market and they have secured a commitment from them that they will never operate on the bridge again. He said apart from living in hunger with members of their families, wood merchants are also incurring heavy loss daily
“We have been living with hunger and pains since the market was shut down almost four weeks ago,” Okanmiyon said.
“Our members in the timber association whose logs were brought from different parts of the country cannot gain access to their goods. The logs of timber run into millions of Naira and they have no opportunity to access the area and salvage what is left of some of their merchants.
Okanmiyon also disclosed that sawyers in the wood market are losing some of their woods because they are drying up and getting bad as the day goes by.
Lawrence Obiora; the President General Sawyers and Timbers Dealers Association of Lagos also appealed to the state government to quickly the market and save his members from hunger.
“I want to appeal to the Lagos State Governor because what happened has happened. We appreciate all the efforts he (Governor Ambode) is taking to sanitise the state and market. But the fallout of the closure is telling on all our members- pullers, sawmilers, transporters, Ijaw National, sawyers, traders, engineers and all those who feedfrom this place.”
“We, therefore, appeal to the governor to look into this issue. The socio-economic fallout of the closure is so huge. It has brought untold hardship to us. We support everything the government is doing to sanitise the place. We are just appealing to him look into our plight and reopen the market.”, Obiora concluded.
Meanwhile, the Lagos State Government have said that the closed section of the wood market will be reopened, only after the environment has been properly sanitised, cleared of wastes and all drainages have been cleared. When The Guardian spoke to the Commissioner of Physical Planning and Urban Development, Mr Wasiu Anifowoshe, he explained that the government sealed off the market because of poor sanitation and the threat posed by activities of the wood merchants to commuters and pedestrians plying the roads near the market.
“We have warned the wood dealers times without number to clear the blocked drainages, keep the environment clean and stop using the highway for their market activities because they have become a threat to other road users but they did not heed the call. The government has the duty to take care of the environment and that was why we took that step.”
Anifowoshe said the government did not close the market to hurt their businesses but the state government has the duty and responsibility to maintain law and order in any part of Lagos. On when the market will be reopened, the Commissioner did not give a specific date but disclosed that as soon as the drainages are cleared and evacuated, and the market sanitised, the wood dealers will be free to go back to their businesses.
“I can’t give a specific date but work is ongoing to evacuate and clear the blocked channels and drainages around the market. We are not here to punish anyone. All we want to do ensure we maintain law and order in the state.”, said Anifowoshe.
The Oko Baba Wood Market is the largest in West Africa and provides jobs for millions of men and women, directly and indirectly.