On November 8, the cloudy sky changed the bustling mood of the Otun market in Ekiti state. A heavy downpour soaked the traders, but that would not stop their trading activities.
By the roadside, near the market space, Abubakar Muhammad, a repairer and seller of electronics, said his petty business was collapsing. When it last rained, many of his gadgets and electronic materials were damaged after they were soaked during the damning flooding invasion.
“Before I finished packing my electronics, the water had drenched many of my radios,” Mr Muhammad told UDEME. “Nobody was there to help me. Other people, too, were rushing to pack their things.”
Mr Mohammed, a middle-aged man, had tried to rent a shop in the newly built Otun market stores but failed. He then decided to join other traders by the roadside, placing a chair and an umbrella for shelter and beckoning potential customers among the passers-by. He had been in this position for thirteen months.
“The radio appliances touched by the floods stopped working,” he recalled. “I lost about N45,000, which shouldn’t have happened if I had a shop.”
During his first tenure between 2010 and 2014, the former governor of Ekiti state, Kayode Fayemi, had projected to build some multi-million Naira modern neighbourhood markets in each of the 16 local government areas in the state. The modern markets project, which includes lock-up shops, open stores, toilets and water facilities, was expected to boost economic activities in the state.
Mr Muhammad is not the only trader who badly wants a space in the newly built market; many other traders said abandoning the completed project gives them nightmares. For instance, Florence Adefula, a smoked fish seller, spoke to UDEME on how lack of space hurts in petty trade.
Mrs Adefule said although she faces hardship selling by the roadside, she has refused to relocate because the location is the best to connect with her potential customers.
“Any time it rains, all of us selling here run helter-skelter, packing our things,” she said. “And when it is a dry season like this, dust will not allow one to rest.”
Many roadside sellers engaged by UDEME said the abandonment of the market space had defeated the project’s purpose. They showed readiness to rent spaces once the market is open for use.
However, while the new modern markets in other areas of the state are partially open for use, the facilities in the Otun-Ekiti and Oye-Ekiti have remained locked since the project was completed in July 2022.
Inside the abandoned neighbourhood market
When UDEME visited the supposedly new modern neighbourhood market space in Otun-Ekiti, this reporter saw traces of abandonment. Now outgrown by grasses, the market space is divided into four blocks with 28 shops locked up and another 28 open stores. It also has a motorised water system and toilets that have been left unused.
UDEME also travelled to Oye-Ekiti in the state to observe the state of the project. This reporter observed that weeds had overtaken the newly built modern market space and its surroundings now serve as an abode to deadly reptiles, posing a threat to the safety of residents.
“If they will not use it, at least they should be clearing the bushes. Big snakes are already living inside that place, and they usually come out,” said Bisola Ajalaye, a resident of the area. “I now shout at my children to always lock the door so snakes will not enter.”
Also, a female student of Federal University Oye-Ekiti (FUOYE) living in the area, Ayomide Akintunde, lamented that the abandoned market spaces, now covered by bushes, instil fear and insecurity threats in residents.
“At night, the road that passes the front of the market is always very dark, and I have to pass there to get to my hostel,” she said. “Most of the time, females seek the company of a male to pass that place. They should, please, do something about it.”
Negligence remains the reason for prolonged abandonment
Reacting to the findings in this report, Biodun Adebayo, the head of the community and development department of the Oye-Ekiti Local Government secretariat, said the neighbourhood market was commissioned in July 2022 by the former Ekiti governor’s wife, Bisi Fayemi, alongside monarchical leaders and government officials.
Before then, the state authorities had split the Oye Local Government Area to have two more Local Development Council Areas (LCDAs) – Ifesowapo and Ifeloju LCDAs located at Isan-Ekiti and Ilupeju-Ekiti, respectively.
“After the commissioning, what the wife of the governor said was that the chairmen and traditional rulers that fall within those LGA and its LCDAs should put their heads together and distribute the stores and the shops at the market, among themselves,” Mr Adebayo recalled.
“Till now, the LCDAs and LGA have not met to distribute the facility, let alone put it into use,” he added.
When asked about the maintenance of the facility, he said: “During the rainy season, we used to take care of that place every two months. But this is the dry season where there would be no need for constant clearing.”
At Ifeloju LCDA, the Chairman, Babatunde Ogunmilugba, also blamed the continuous abandonment on sluggishness in the decision-making of both the LCDAs and the Oye LGA. He promised to hasten up the said meeting and get in touch with UDEME once a conclusion is reached.
“What we are waiting for is the Oye LGA to invite us to a meeting. Soon, we are going to have the meeting, and the place will be distributed,” he said.
However, Adediran Agboola, a top official of the Moba local government, revealed that authorities in the area were planning to give the market stores to traders whose wares were neat.
“Not destructive elements but people who can keep the place neat,” he said. “Unfortunately, during this process in 2019, the king died, and the plan was suspended. But since the installation of a new king, they have not been able to sit to decide what next to do with the facility. And that is where we have been ever since.”
This reporter later visited Adekunle Adeagbo, the newly installed king of Otun-Ekiti, at his palace. Although he confirmed that he knows about the unused market facility, he claimed that its functionality is not under his jurisdiction.
“I cannot tell you much about that place,” he said. “The best people to respond to you are the Local Government Area because it is under their authority, not my own as the king,” he said.
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