Sitting in his wooden kiosk, Ademola Kazeem shared his experience of trading and eventually quitting the Ayegbaju International Market in Osogbo, Osun State.
Mr Kazeem is one of the hundreds of traders who feel disappointed by what the market has become.
“The government changed the agreement and promises. That is why we left,” he said, as he munched a piece of ‘akara’ (beans cake). “Many businesses have been ruined. A woman here ran at a loss in her frozen food business after most of her fish got spoiled due to lack of electricity,” he added.
In Osogbo, the capital city of Osun State, the Ayegbaju international market, a multi-billion naira project, lies deserted.
Before the construction of the ‘international’ version, the local Ayegbaju market was one of the most patronized in the city. However, things changed soon after the state government upgraded the facility. Many roadside traders who were supposed to be the prime beneficiary of the new market took their businesses elsewhere because of some issues they faced.
The Ayegbaju Ultra-modern International Market was commissioned on 7 July, 2014 by the then governor, Rauf Aregbesola.
According to several news reports, the project estimated at N2.3 billion was awarded to Edward Consult Limited, an estate developer, in a private-public partnership (PPP) deal.
They envisaged the market would provide a good business environment for market women and men, as it was designed with facilities that include public toilets, health centres, police posts, car parks, electricity connection and CCTV cameras.
The official claim was that the shops were rented to traders at affordable costs. But this does not seem to be the case as traders said the actual rent they pay is expensive. Many of them said it was the high rent, among other factors, that chased them away from the market.
Segun Adeyemo, the director of the market, refused to disclose the official rent per shop when asked. Instead, he explained that there are about 1,000 shops built into different categories; from the exclusive shops to the mini and open shops meant for butchers and pepper sellers.
This reporter observed that less than 50 shops were occupied and opened out of the 1,000 shops in the facility.
‘International Market’ shunned by local traders
In October 2017, Punch newspaper published a report with the headline “Traders shun Osun’s Ayegbaju market”. The story reported that the state government complained about traders’ refusal to use the market even though 95 per cent of the shops had been leased out and paid for. Nothing has changed since then.
In August when UDEME spoke with some of the traders, they said the shops were not occupied because they were rented or sold to civil servants and politicians who have kept them locked up, with no apparent intention to put them to use.
“I have been here since the market was opened, and believe me, this market is very convenient. However, the lack of traders caused by those who bought shops and didn’t use them affected its growth,” Alarape Aminat, a trader who sells clothing materials in the market, explained.
Mr Kazeem sells beef at Akindeko Market, a roadside market in another part of Osogbo. He had rented a shop and relocated to the new market until poor sales forced him out.
He told UDEME that traders were disappointed because the state government did not provide most of the facilities it promised at the market.
“We all went there and rented shops and spaces in the market immediately we heard it was open. But all the things that we were expecting were not there, including power supply. Our businesses started destroying, so we came back here to the roadside,” Mr Kazeem said.
At Oroki Market, another roadside facility opposite Akindeko Market, a trader who preferred not to be mentioned for fear of a backlash expressed her disappointment with the market.
“I spent money on that market myself, but all was wasted because what we were promised was different from what we met.”
The disappointed trader added that the traders are no longer interested in the Ayegbaju Market. “This is our market here, and we cannot move from here again to Ayegbaju,” she said.
Blessing in disguise
Ironically, a shopper, Oladeji Olawale, who spoke with UDEME at Ayegbaju market, said he finds the new market more convenient for shopping than the roadside option.
“I love to always come here to buy my stuff because of the parking space and security. Indeed, the market is okay. But it is not properly organized and I found out that this market may not work because of the creation of sub-markets and complexes elsewhere in the city, where most business owners are turning to instead of coming here,” he said.
Current administration working to resuscitate market
Mr Adeyemo, the official running Ayegbaju market, explained that the situation of the facility was worse before he took over its administration.
“I resumed as the marketing director of the market last May. Before I came, it was something else, but since I resumed office, I have done some work to encourage people to enter the market. That is why it is at this stage you met it. I did so many jingles and bonanzas to lure people in, which actually yielded results with time,” he said.
Mr Adeyemo also added that the poor situation of the market was worsened by the location and the planning.
“Two main factors caused the condition of the market; first is the construction of the market that was built behind the city, the main entrance is at the back, while the market is at the back. Another reason is the many rising markets and complexes in the city today.”
UDEME could not reach the developer but sources privy to the PPP arrangement said Edward Consult Limited has sold all the shops and cashed out.
Mr Adeyemo confirmed that the shops and complexes were indeed sold out, and most of the buyers were career officers and some individuals who do not live in Nigeria.
Jibola Falode, the director of commerce, who spoke on behalf of the Commissioner for Commerce and Industry in the state, said the authorities had made many attempts to increase the utilization of the market, but the efforts were affected by many new complexes and sub- markets rising almost daily in the state.
“The problem is that if some individuals had not paid for some shops, it would have been easier to advertise for people to subscribe. But it is difficult owing (to the fact) that there are owners of the shops. There was a time we went on air to tell people to come and use the shops for free for three months.”
Mrs Falode added that the ministry was liaising with the Ministry of Justice to follow a legal route to open the shops that were abandoned by owners.
Mr Adeyemo and Mrs Falode said the state government still generates revenue from the service charges and rents in the market.
“Although it is in the market’s account, the money will be transferred to the government very soon”, Mrs Falode said.
The former governor, Mr Aregbesola, who is currently the minister of interior, did not respond to several calls and emails sent to him for this report.
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