As a follow up to the story on the relocation of Ikeja Computer Village, our correspondent, during a visit to Katangowa Market, along Lagos-Abeokuta expressway, gathered that Katangowa is the proposed site where the Ikeja traders may be resettled.
In terms of size, Katangowa is bigger than the Computer Village, as the market covers about 26 hectares of land with most of the traders dealing in second-hand clothes. Katangowa shows a vivid picture of a disorganised setting. While the major entrance to the market from Lagos-Abeokuta expressway is almost taken over by street traders, a large portion of the market has been overtaken by refuse.
During the visit, some of the items seen on display in the market in large quantities were clothes, bags, shoes, curtains, belts and other textile materials. Also, many women and young girls were seen selling vegetable, fish, tomato, pepper and other food items in the market. While most of the dealers in textile materials operated in small shops, those trading in food items displayed their wares on the sidewalk thereby disrupting free flow of traffic around the market.
At the back of the market, which leads to Saint Peters Anglican Church, there were structures serving as residential homes. Lagos State Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Mr. Olutoyin Ayinde, said measures were being put in place by the state government to rehabilitate Katangowa and thus fast track the relocation of the Computer Villagers traders.
He told Sunday Vanguard: “To start with, the initiative to rebuild the Computer Village is in line with the policy of the state government to re-plan Ikeja. The place you have as Computer Village today was a residential zone in Ikeja and not built for commercial activities. But due to long years of military rule, we seem to have lost a sense of order and planning. Now the state government is working tirelessly to rebuild the place and put it in a better shape.
“Government discovered that the Computer Village is no longer conducive and started making efforts to move the traders operating there to Katangowa. On the other hand, Katangowa is not a virgin land. One part of Katangowa has residential structures, another has the market while the other part is the dump site. The issue of pre-qualifying bidding exercise was when the expression of interest from private investors was invited. The concept was to get investors to rebuild the Computer Village , not before relocating Katangowa to another place called Amikanle. Realistically, we must first go to Amikanle to build a new market and move the people from Katangowa there before rebuilding the Computer Village . This is the issue because it is not possible to start the project at Ikeja when the operators are still occupying that place.
“Also, there are vital issues involved in the Ikeja project that the government is taking into consideration, which makes people think that the project is foot-dragging. For instance, you must first go to Amikanle, to build a new market for traders at Katangowa to relocate to. After that, compensation must be paid to individuals who built structures in Katangowa Market, because you cannot just wake up over night to restructure a place, destroying investments that people put there without adequate compensation. For example, we had a case of the people in Oluwole Market in Lagos Island , where government followed due process and the owners of the place were resettled and also have a stake in the new development. So, when we evaluated all these, some of those who expressed interest initially during the pre-qualifying bidding could no longer cope. Beyond that, we do not want to put the project in the hands of incompetent investors who will abandon it half-way.
“The last time we visited Amikanle showed that the level of development there is so much and will not be wise to clear those buildings and put a market. Aside from that, the location may not be viable to move the market there. At present, we are looking at a new model of how all the activities can co-exist, for Katangowa to accommodate the existing traders, the dealers in computer and allied products from Computer Village and the residential area. From our experience, often times, people who claim to have funds to invest in mega projects do not usually have it at the time the projects are awarded. So, if government starts by putting something there to show commitment, genuine investors will be encouraged to come in. Already, the ministry has started the design of a Digital Village in Katangowa by the state government, which is estimated at about N500million.”
On if there are underlying interests within the ministry to handle Ikeja project, he said, “This is not a direct labour project, so there is nothing like personal interest. Financial challenge made some companies that expressed interest initially to back out, but we still have those who submitted their proposals with us. In order to select a credible firm with the required financial capability and technical-know-how to handle the project, we have engaged a Transaction Advisor, who will look at the request for proposals from bidders and give government expert advice on the best company to engage. So that the project, when finally awarded, will be well executed. The government is methodical in approach by following due process. This is what people should appreciate”.