Eko Bridge fire: Lagos traders kick against quit notice, demand alternative

Traders at the Oke Arin Market, Ebute-Ero, in the Lagos Island area of Lagos State, on Monday, asked the Lagos State Government to reconsider the seven-day quit notice issued to them.


Following a fire that gutted some makeshift shops and containers in the open space under the Eko Bridge last Wednesday, the state government had shut down the bridge, which was affected by the inferno.


The state then gave a seven-day quit notice to traders and squatters under the bridge.


On Monday, leaders of the traders and shop owners pleaded with the state Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who visited for an on-the-spot assessment, to give them an alternative place.


The Iyaloja Romoleti Esho of Lagos Island, Alhaja Rukayat Balogun, said the traders needed more time to leave the area.


She said, “I am one of the victims of the fire. I lost property worth millions of naira because I constructed some of the shops.


“Lagos State has given all of us here and even other places where the fire did not get to seven days to leave.

“Part of their instruction is that all containers and shops be cleared from under the bridge. But we are pleading with the government to allow us as we have no other place to go.


“Some of us are still in the hospital receiving treatment due to the shock of the fire, which razed property worth millions of naira. The banks where we collected loans to trade are already on our neck, asking for their money.


“Customers from African countries like Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mali and others usually come here to trade with us. Tell me where else does the government want to move us to on Lagos Island?


“We have been trading here for over 40 years and most of us are breadwinners of our families; we are now in debt and nobody is talking about that. The governor should allow us to continue here; we promise to be careful and law-abiding.”


Another trader, Chidera Igwe, who claimed to be a single parent and mother of two, said the state government’s decision could make life unbearable for them.


She said, “If the government asks us to vacate this place without arranging an alternative place to move to, how do we feed ourselves, our families, and take care of our children’s school fees?

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“Governor Sanwo-Olu should please have mercy and allow us to continue to trade here pending the time they will create an alternative place.”


A shoe and bag trader, who identified herself only as Madam Risikat, said her husband recently lost his job and her family depended on her.

“I don’t have where else to turn to or who to look up to,” she stated amid tears.


Sanwo-Olu, who addressed the traders, said the seven-day notice, which would elapse on Wednesday, would not be extended.


He noted that experts needed to carry out an extensive assessment of the damage done to the bridge, which was constructed by Julius Berger in 1974.


According to PUNCH, The governor said, “We have issued a seven-day notice to all illegal occupiers under the bridge. We have gone to see the extent of the destruction on the bridge; it is an unfortunate incident and the situation that caused the fire was a clear indication of how public assets should not be used. I want to reiterate that our ultimatum is still on and Wednesday is the deadline.


“Between last two years and now, we have had eight fire incidents on our bridges. Each time something like this happens, it affects everyone of us and the economy. The implication is far-reaching and this will not be accepted as a norm. It costs more resources to put the damaged bridges back in shape and the activity takes more time to be completed.


“However, we can sit with the local government chairman and CBD office to find places the traders can be relocated to; but it will be totally irresponsible to allow the traders to go back to their usual lifestyle.”


The state government under Babajide Sanwo-Olu is also trying to relocate Ikeja Computer Village.

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