The Lagos State Government said on Sunday that there was no going back on the redevelopment of the Alade Market in Ikeja into a N6.9 billion mega-shopping mall.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the contract for the redevelopment of the market was in 2010 granted to Master Reality International Concepts Ltd, which is investing N6.9 billion on the project under a 30-year concession on a Build, Own and Transfer (BOT) basis.
But on Sunday morning, traders in the market prevented the concessionaire from commencing the redevelopment work at the market, citing non-provision of an alternative market for their action.
Consequently, the concessionaire forcibly deployed its men and shut down the market, taking possession, to begin the redevelopment in accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that was signed in 2010.
The intervention of the Executive Secretary of Ikeja Local Government, Adekunle Adeokun, led to the re-opening of the market as a 15-man committee had been set up to fashion out the relocation of the traders to a new market, built for them beside the main market.
Mr. Adeokun, who spoke on behalf of the state government and the council which approved the upgrade of the market, said the redevelopment of the market into a mega mall was not negotiable, adding that the traders had to pave way for the contractor to move to site.
He said most of the traders kicking against the project were not the original shop owners and that the contractor had invested money on the project since the MoU was signed five years ago.
Mr. Adeokun explained that since the money must be paid back, the project must be completed on time.
Also speaking on the development, the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Masters Reality International Concepts Ltd, Lai Omotola, said the company came to take possession of the property in a bid to commence its redevelopment. He explained that since the traders had been unwilling to leave the market for redevelopment, the action of the company became inevitable.
“On Aug. 12, 2010, we signed a concession with the Ikeja Local Government under a BOT arrangement to redevelop Alade Market into a mega mall, to meet the standard of a mega city.
“For the past five years, we have been meeting with the marketers to move them to another place we have built for them and they have refused to move, saying they were not okay with the alternative provided,” he said.
According to him, with the recent plan by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to publish the names of debtors in the nation, there is need to move to site to start the project.
He explained that the company’s cash-flow had been affected as the lender banks were becoming impatient to get their money back.
Mr. Omotola said a foreign cash-inflow of $50 million was obtained in 2013 with the exchange rate then pegged at N175 to a dollar, but lamented that the exchange rate had skyrocketed to N195 to the dollar.
He said the declining value of the Naira was a serious concern to him, saying the development posed a threat to the accelerated delivery of the project.
“All attempts for the market people to be reasonable with us proved abortive and it has come to a stage where our nobility is turning into stupidity.
“We came on ground today to work and the Executive Secretary called us to step down and go into a roundtable.
“At the meeting with the council, attended by the parties involved, it was agreed that a committee be set up with five people each from the council, the traders and the contractor.
“The concern of the developer is that the marketers must sign an agreement that once the things needed are in place, they will move to the place built for them, which already has 194 shops.
“We are frustrated and tired. We need the help of government to accelerate this project because as time goes on, we are paying big interest. This project is about N6.9 billion. The place we are relocating them to is part of the investment we have made,” he said.
Mr. Omotola added that if all things went on as planned, the developer would complete the project between 18 and 24 months, adding that the company had the plan to build another 130 shops aside the 194 already built, to move the traders to pave way for the project.