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Lagos Traders Protest Market Shutdown by Waste Agency

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Lagos, Nigeria – Thousands of traders at the Lagos International Trade Fair Complex staged a peaceful protest on Tuesday against the closure of their markets by the Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA).

The traders, who are mostly from the Igbo ethnic group, said they lost over N2 billion ($4.8 million) in revenue due to the closure, which they described as “sudden and unjust”. The Lagos International Trade Fair Complex is one of the largest markets in Africa, hosting over 62 associations and thousands of businesses that deal in various goods and services.

The closure was ordered by the Lagos State Ministry of Environment and Water Resources, which accused the traders of poor waste disposal practices, non-payment for waste disposal and general environmental sanitation infractions.

The ministry said it carried out the enforcement in partnership with the Lagos Task Force on Environmental Sanitation and Special Offenses and the Lagos Environmental Sanitation Corps (LAGESC).

However, the traders denied owing any fees to LAWMA and said they had receipts and evidence to prove it. They also said they were not given any warning or opportunity to clear their waste before the closure.

“We are law-abiding citizens and we pay our taxes regularly. We have been operating here for over 30 years and we have never experienced such a thing. This is a deliberate attempt to frustrate us and drive us out of business,” said Chief Daniel Oforkansi, a former chairman of the trade fair and a member of the Board of Trustees.

The traders also alleged that the closure was politically motivated and aimed at victimizing them for being Igbos. They said they were being targeted because of their support for the opposition party in the state.

“We are not criminals or terrorists. We are hardworking people who contribute to the economy of this state and this country. We demand justice and fairness from the government. We want our markets reopened immediately,” said Chief Eric Ilechukwu, the chairman of the Trade Fair Stakeholders Forum.

The traders vowed to continue their protest until their demands were met. They also called on the federal government and human rights groups to intervene in their plight. The closure of the trade fair complex has also affected other businesses and residents in the area, who rely on the market for their daily needs.

 

Some customers who came to buy goods from the market expressed their disappointment and frustration at the situation. “I came all the way from Ogun State to buy some electronics here, but I was shocked to see that the gates were locked. I don’t know what to do now. I have wasted my time and money,” said Adebayo Oluwaseun, a customer. The Lagos State government has not issued any official statement on the matter as of the time of filing this report.

The Lagos International Trade Fair Complex is a federal government-owned facility that was leased to a private company in 2008 for 30 years. The lease agreement has been a subject of controversy and litigation between the federal government, the Lagos State government and the traders.

The trade fair complex is one of several markets in Lagos that have been shut down by LAWMA in recent months over environmental issues. LAWMA is a state-owned agency that is responsible for managing waste collection and disposal in Lagos, which generates over 10,000 metric tons of waste daily.

LAWMA has been facing challenges in its operations due to funding constraints, inadequate equipment, poor staff welfare and corruption allegations. The agency has also been accused of violating human rights and environmental laws by dumping waste indiscriminately in landfills and water bodies, causing pollution and health hazards.

LAWMA has denied these allegations and said it was committed to ensuring a clean and healthy environment for Lagos residents. The agency has also appealed to residents and businesses to cooperate with it by paying their waste bills promptly, sorting their waste properly and disposing them at designated points.

LAWMA said it was working hard to improve its services and introduce new initiatives such as recycling, waste-to-energy and waste-to-wealth programs. The agency said it hoped to achieve its vision of making Lagos a zero-waste city by 2025.

 

 

Source: [Vanguard]

 

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