As they rush to complete the redevelopment of Ibadan’s historic Ogunpa Market, I visited to assess the project.

Initially scheduled to be completed in December 2016, the redevelopment of Ogunpa Market is yet to be completed in March 2018. I visited to assess the stage of work done. Here’s what I found.

Over two years ago, January 11, 2016 to be specific, the controversial redevelopment of Ogunpa market finally got underway. On that day, IBPulse reported that the project was being undertaken as a public-private partnership. So, few days ago, just over two years that the project got underway, I decided to visit to check out the situation of things.

The Genesis

The decision to carry out the project was reached at the end of a meeting held between the stakeholders and the state government at the House of Chiefs, Parliament Building, Ibadan, on Friday. It would be recalled that the government’s resolve to transform the market through a PPP arrangement had generated tension among the traders and other stakeholders.

Some of the traders were afraid that since the project would be executed by a private developer, they might not be able to afford the cost of the shops, which they said might be exorbitant. They were also worried that the original traders in the market might be shut out upon completion, while the completed shops might be allocated to more influential people.

In a statement issued by the state government and gotten by IBPulse, it said it was able to assuage the fears of the market women.

Governor Abiola Ajimobi was represented by a former Special Adviser to the Governor on Security, Mr. Segun Abolarinwa. He assured the stakeholders that the interest of the traders would be adequately taken care of. He said the state government decided to adopt the PPP model for the development of the market following the current economic realities that had made such partnership inevitable.

A very dirty market

Last year, IBPulse reported that the hygiene situation at the market was quite horrific as heaps of refuse and dirts were right in the middle of the market.

If you are quite familiar with the market very well, you would know that the footpath is very very narrow, only two slim individuals could stand side-by-side. But I was shocked to see that the market people had also embraced the act of dumping refuse in the middle of the road as is the practice on highways, even stuffs from the gutter found their way into the middle of the road which, as you can see in the picture below and in the link above, are an eyesore for the city.

The aesthetics I saw were very bad for the market thus begging the question – is the government doing anything to ensure that the people in the market are safe from infections and disease outbreaks?

Things are now changing

If you are coming from Dugbe, you may not see much change initially as activities appeared normal and similar. Many of the ancient buildings remain untouched as traders and hecklers compete with prospective shoppers for leg space even as vehicles – private and commercial, bikes and Keke NAPEP patiently navigate their ways to avoid running over kids and wares.

Where the change exists however is at the center of the market where clothes and other fashion items are being sold. New structures have emerged – several of which are already being put into use by traders and shoppers alike.

The new shops are enclosed and are of different types – shops, stalls and ‘open markets’.

When the project was first announced, the government said it would house at least 1000 shops. Looking around however, I had reservations with that number. However, what they could achieve is 1000 traders using the market since the stalls are tightly packed and the open market areas are accommodating even more traders.

New ecosystem has emerged

The first time I visited was a Sunday evening. Even though people were around, they weren’t as numerous as those that I saw there when I returned on a Tuesday afternoon.

There is a small car park within the premises of the new shops and while several of the shops had already been occupied, there are still numerous vacant ones.

Inside one of the new shops, a trader sells brassieres to female customers. She told IBPulse that business is moving well and she feels safer in the new shop than when she was selling her wares on the roadside.

An interesting observation made over a period of three visits to the market showed several of the traders knew each other before they got the new shops and this came to play while choosing which points they would display their goods.

This is probably the reason why individuals selling the same types of products are forming colonies even though there are odds – I saw someone selling baby products in the same lane where shoes were being sold.

Those selling undergarments, female dresses and shoes decided to occupy the shops around the toilet, the open areas where many traders are displaying their wares are largely occupied by traders selling jeans and other male wares.

The good part about the all arrangement is that the structures are largely linked and, ideally, a shopper would come in through one end and would exit at the other.

Sanitation and hygiene issues

While interacting with some of the traders using the new facilities, a discussion happening not-so-far-away got my attention. Some of the traders were complaining to the engineer and architect overseeing the project that the odour emanating from the toilet is unbearable to them.

The traders trying to get the contractors to do something about the toilet’s ‘odour situation’

“Anytime they flush, the whole place will be smelling. It is getting so unbearable for us here. Help us do something about it,” a female trader said.

The response of the engineer and architect suggested there was little or nothing that could be done to salvage the situation, suggesting the use of ‘airfreshner’ instead.

My attention also shifted to the Ogunpa river that flows just beside the shops and its legendarily dirty situation. Even though waste bins had been provided, the temptation to throw wastes inside the river is very strong especially considering the fact that river is already ready.

Ogunpa river is beside the new shops and it is highly polluted

Way behind the initial deadline

While announcing the project in 2016, Mr. Segun Bolarinwa revealed that it would be completed before the end of the year (2016). But we’re in March 2018 and the project is yet to be completed even though the workers are working on Sundays suggesting that a deadline is in view but I don’t think a meticulous job can be completed before the next three months.

When the project is finally completed, the real issue will now be how to avoid rancours, disagreements and grudges in the allocation.

To avoid fights, the government said no individual will be allowed to acquire multiple shops to the detriment of others.

According to Bolarinwa, the Market Advisory Council and the executive members of the Ogunpa Market Traders Association would be involved in the allocation of the shops upon completion. Furthermore, he said all necessary enumeration had been done and that no trader would be allowed to have more than one shop.

No one really knows what would happen to the roadside traders that cannot afford – or are reluctant – to pay for the new shops. Will they be sent away from the market to protect the interest of those that are in the new shops?

There are also security and safety concerns.

Touts roam the market all day – including touts parading themselves as local government environmental officers. They do come in commercial buses and will pack the goods of some the traders and will not release the wares until they are bribed.

For a market that the government wants to restructure, this cannot be allowed to go on unchecked.

Also, I did not see any safety provisions to protect traders against fire incidents – no assembly points nor fire extinguishers. This is of particular concern since several of the shops are enclosed and traders and shoppers could be trapped when there is a fire outbreak – potentially leading to a similar event that occurred in December 2014 in the Ogunpa market when fire gutted shops and wares. The ineffectiveness of fire service in Oyo state has also been reported by IBPulse.

The Ogunpa Market redevelopment project is at advanced stage but efforts need to made to ensure that compromises are not made on quality and concerns are given to hygiene, safety, security and the environment to protect the traders, shoppers, goods and the community at large.

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