Delays mar attempts to relocate Lagos Computer Village

Delays mar attempts to relocate Lagos Computer Village

Lagos, a city of over 20 million people, is Nigeria’s economic hub. The city is famed for its ability to allow trade to thrive at any of its corners. Oshodi, Idumota, Yaba, Mile 12, and more are testaments to Lagos’ commercial viability.

 

Internationally, it is regarded as Nigeria’s commercial capital. According to numerous reports, it has the seventh largest GDP in Africa, larger than that of Ghana and Kenya.

 

Also, Lagos markets are famed for peculiar commodities. Oshodi (Ladipo) is known for spare parts, Idumota and Yaba (Tejuosho) for clothes, and Mile 12 for foodstuff. Each market in Lagos has an identity, making it a large concentration of specialised trading.

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Ikeja Underbridge is to computers what Ladipo is to spare parts. It is the home of computers and mobile phones, including their repairs. It is the convergence of many digital activities in the state and from its gate young men try to convince customers that their devices are the cheapest.

 

Located in the heart of the city, Computer village is home to about 3,000 information technology small and medium enterprises. A Stears Business report estimates that about N1.5bn is generated daily in the market.

 

It is the home of technology devices for Nigerians, with major technology firms such as Samsung, HP, Dell, Toshiba, Tecno, and Nokia having physical presence in the market.

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But with its popularity, the market is also synonymous with traffic. According to the Public Relations Officer of the Computer and Allied Product Dealers Association of Nigeria, Solagbade Olaifa, Computer Village was situated in an area that wasn’t intentionally designed to be a market.

 

He said the market sprang up as a result of its centrality and in response to the demand for technological devices. However, all this is about to change as the Lagos State Government has since announced plans to relocate the market from its present location to Kantangora in Abule Egba to solve traffic congestion and environmental problems in the area.

 

Olaifa, said, “The project has been on for a long time. This project started since the time of Asiwaju (Bola Tinubu) when they were pursuing a mega city and there was a new plan for Lagos State and particularly Ikeja as the capital.

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“At the time, they said they wouldn’t want a market of such magnitude in that environment because it causes a lot of traffic, congestion. So, we were told to look for a place where we can move. We tried to look for vacant land but it was futile until recently when the Agbado Oke Odo Local Government decided to offer us a place so we could build.

 

“All the documents were perfected between the state and local government after which they put out a bid which Bridgeway won.

 

“Since then, they have been working. During the Fashola administration, the plan was to relocate the people residing and doing business in Katangora to Amikole, which is another location within Agabado Oke Odo. But when Fashola was governor, he discovered that Amikole had been allocated to another group. This hiccup took another period before it was cleared.

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“The Ambode administration told the contractor that they must settle the people already there and still accommodate the new market as well. There are people selling used clothes, around there. So, an area for these traders has been constructed and completed. And the area for the new Computer Village has also been carved out in the area too.”

 

According to him, the logistics surrounding the project had contributed to the numerous delays over the years. He added that the market was no longer conducive to the environment it was situated at the moment.

 

He explained that it was causing a lot of menace within the axis as the market was in a privately-owned area with buildings converted to shops.

 

In 2021, Bridgeways Global Projects Limited, the contractor in charge of the new Computer Village, announced that the first phase of the new ICT market would be completed in 24 months.

 

The new proposed Computer Village is known as the Katangora Information and Communications Technology Business Park. The Chief Executive Officer, Bridgeways Global Projects, Jimmy Onyemenam, explained that the new area would provide infrastructure for the manufacturing of technology hardware too.

 

“The Katangora ICT Business Park will also provide the infrastructure to incubate and accelerate the development of technology solutions that can improve development outcomes in Africa.”

 

According to numerous reports, the project was expected to cost about N40bn. The President, Phone and Allied Product Dealers Association of Nigeria, Ifeanyi Akubue, stated that project has been slow paced.

 

He explained that the project’s site had been fenced and foundation for some buildings had been erected. He stated, “The developer and the market are working towards the project but there has been a delay.

 

“I don’t know why there is a delay because the traders are not the ones in charge. It was contracted to a developer. The developer revealed at the launch of the project that in 24 months the site would be ready. This was last year. They promised that in 24 months we might be there. But there has been a delay, and we don’t know why.

 

“We went there physically to see the place when it began. They were doing perimeter fencing at the time. Then they laid the foundation. The work was going on, but there has been a delay in recent times. I do not know why there is a delay, but I am sure the market is still moving to Katangora. We are on it. We have the forms and are on top of it.

 

“Some people have invested; some people have bought into it. We are presently waiting on the government and the developer. That is how much I can say as a developer and a leader.”

 

Akubue said the forms were an indication of intent to buy or lease shops at the new site (Katangora) and people could buy forms and decide on the payment plan for the shop they wanted. He said they could pay outrightly or through the bank (Sterling Bank).

 

According to him, there were 12,000 businesses in the market presently.

 

He added, “In terms of capacity, the government has planned that place to have warehouses, residential areas, and many other structures. But the structure we saw when we visited was a three-storey building, which is the first phase of the project. There will be a lot of buildings, but we have seen the first phase which will contain a lot of shops.

 

“Presently, Computer Village has a lot of businesses. We have visible shops and invisible ones because of online business. We have close to 12,000 businesses which include individuals and companies operating from Computer Village today.

 

“This move will affect our businesses. But the present Computer Village was not designed to be a market and today there are many roads around the market which is making its expansion almost impossible. The truth is that the market has overgrown where it is today, and we need a better environment and place that will contain so many people.

 

“Our new site is the last bus stop of the BRT, and all the roads and bridges that are being constructed around the area are towards making that place accessible for everyone. The location of a market isn’t really an issue once it can be accessed from anywhere.”

 

According to him, there was no timeline for the completion of the project because of a delay from the developer of the project. He stated that the traders were enthusiastic about the move and could not wait for its completion.

 

However, the Managing Partner, Bodds IT Solutions, Emmanuel Osho, disclosed that a lot of traders were not happy with the intended move as it would impact their businesses negatively. He explained that the current slow pace of the project was because certain bigwigs in the market were kicking against it.

 

He said, “I am not in support of the move and a lot of traders are not excited about it. A lot of people like where the market is located.

 

“Moving the market means we would be farther from central Lagos, meaning a lot of people would have to spend a lot of time to get to their workplaces. Also, people would have to think twice before they plan to come to do business with us.

 

“Ikeja is central Lagos. Now, imagine they need to come to our new location from the Island. Ikeja was already stressful, but this will be an added stress for them and shop owners. People that are situated in Ikeja would have to be shuttling Ikeja to Katangora.

 

“What will make sense is to try to move people to central concentrations within the market. That is what makes sense. A lot of bigwigs do not want to move, and this is slowing down the project, they are fighting it in their own way.”

 

When contacted, the Commissioner for Information, Mr Gbenga Omotoso, promised to get back on the issue but did not do so as at the time of filing the story. Efforts to reach Bridgeway to comment on the story proved abortive.

 

Nigeria’s ICT sector is witnessing a revolution that is largely driven by the telecommunications aspect of it. Experts believe that other aspects of the nation’s ICT sector can also play a robust role in the nation’s attempt to fully digitise.

 

Nigeria is a major importer of technology devices – about 63 million devices are imported yearly. Today, Computer Village is a consumer market, producing nothing other than serving as a conduit for finished products. But experts believe it can be more.

 

However, for it to fully achieve its potential, they agree that the traders need to move to a properly planned space, where manufacturing can also thrive.

 

[PUNCH]

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