The peace and tranquility that pervade the popular Ile-Epo Market in Abule Oke-Odo area of Lagos State was truncated on January 7, 2016 when some persons suspected to be members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW invaded the market with guns, cutlasses and broken bottles.
The touts who shot sporadically allegedly injured several traders traders and their customers. It was leant that the traders and their customers scampered in different directions for safety as the stern -looking invaders allegedly made straight for some members of the Ile-Epo Central Market Union, inflicting bodily injuries on them with their weapons.
Angered by this development, the traders recently stormed the office of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode to seek his immediate intervention to avert the looming disaster in the once peaceful market.
The genesis of the fracas could be traced to 2011 when a move was made by the union to create a motor park in the market in order to generate revenue from truck drivers conveying commodities to the market. The move was vehemently resisted by the central leadership of the market comprising chairmen from Igbo and Hausa traders as well the Iya loja and Baba Oloja from the Yoruba community.
VM learnt that leaders of the market reported the case to the Police which compelled some members of the union suspected to be fueling the matter to sign an undertaking. The undertaking was however breached two days after when the touts invaded the market.
Among those who sustained injuries were Makinde Adesina 29 and Tanimona Dele 38 who lungs were pierced through with machetes. Also injured is one Ganiyu who reportedly had his knee perforated by bullets and was referred to the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LASUTH where he would undergo surgery to extract the pellets.
The traders who came in their numbers to the Alausa office of the Governor, cut across sex and ages. Carrying placards some of which read : ‘‘Enough is enough for NURTW in Agbado-Oke-Odo market,’ ‘No more intimidation in Agbado-Oke-Odo mareket,’ ‘Our dear Governor Ambode, save Oke-Odo traders from Engineer Famuyiwa and ‘Our lives are in danger in Oke-Odo market,’ the traders alleged that their present plight was instigated by some officials of the Agbado Oke-Odo Local Council Development Area. They further alleged that the motor park touts were on the pay roll of the said official.
Led by Mr. Livinus Njoku who chairs one of the unions, the protesters called on Governor Ambode to call officials of the local government as well as the NURTW members to order before the situation gets out of control.
“These touts have continued to threaten us. Last Thursday, they almost killed three persons. Several traders sustained injuries while three of us are still in the hospital receiving treatment as a result of the fire they opened on defenseless traders. We are therefore appealing to you sir, to wade into the matter and save our lives,” they pleaded.
“A senior official of the Council is responsible for the crisis. We have always wanted him to deal with us as market officials but he wanted NURTW to control the market. Inside the market, there is no motor park, so why should they leave the road and enter the market. We had an agreement to be remitting N100,000 every month. But in the month of November 2015, the same Local Council sent people to come and disrupt the agreement we had by printing and collecting tolls themselves. They blackmailed us by alleging that we were collecting money from innocent people but not allowing them to operate and collect their own money. They used money to harass, arrest and send us to court. It was while we were arrested that the NURTW launched the attack on traders,” they further alleged.
Also recounting their ordeal another trader, Modupe Akani, stated , “ Touts in the market led by the Executive Secretary of Agbado Oke-Odo is causing problems to us. They impose high taxes on us as tickets. For instance, we pay N500 and above daily to them, depending on what you are selling. The government should please come to our aid”.
The traders warned that if nothing was done to stem the crisis, “a massive calamity never witnessed in the history of markets in Lagos State might befall Agbado Oke-Odo LCDA soon”.
“If the government and lovers of peace in Lagos State do not call some officials of Agbado Oke-Odo Local Council Development Area and their rampaging thugs of NURTW to order, there would be crisis”, they said warned.
After submitting their letter at the Governor’s Office, the protesters proceeded to the State House of Assembly where the Deputy Speaker , Hon. Wasiu Eshilokun advised them to seek the way of peace as an alternative in resolving the matter.
He assured that the House would continue to ensure that lives and properties in the market were protected through peaceful process.
Efforts by VM to get the reaction of the Chairman NURTW, Lagos State, Alhaji Tajudeen Agbede failed as his phone rang without response.