Canoe market: Where chaos reigns at nightfall
That notwithstanding, having been illegally converted to a flourishing market, it is also seen by many as a disaster waiting to happen, owing to innumerable human activities taking place around its fringes.
Occupation of the location by the traders, and the indiscriminate display of their wares, is in utter disregard to the appeal by the immediate past governor of the state, Babatunde Fashola (SAN), who upon commissioning the road, pleaded with the traders to cease trading on the sidewalks, as it was meant to provide a walking path for pedestrians.
Reuben, one of the traders in the market claims that their occupation of the spot was actually authorised by the state government.“I have been around here for five years. When the government was constructing the road, we were trading on the walkway until the road was commissioned. It was after the construction that Fashola moved us to this market space. We pay the sum of N10, 000 to get a space here. The money goes to the Iyaloja General, Mrs. Folasade Tinubu-Ojo, who even placed a signpost within the market late last year. We also pay N100 everyday for the market to be cleaned up, while the local government authorities charge N50 daily for tickets.
He continued, “This market has existed here for three years, and it comes alive mainly in the evenings, beginning from the close of work.”The safety of buyers and sellers, within the fringes of the facility is always a source of concern, especially because of the activities of sundry motorists, including commercial transporters, mostly three wheelers.
Said Reuben, “Although the commercial tri-cyclists have their park around, as activities in the market peak in the evening, they usually abandon their park, and resort to dropping passengers along the road, and thereafter hurry along to pick up new passengers. This leads to traffic jam most times. Even with the presence of officials of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), the commercial cyclists still have their way.”
Taiwo, a tri-cyclist, says he and his colleagues are not to be blamed for the chaotic traffic situation around the market. According to him, as night approaches, the traders begin to encroach on the road, thereby narrowing it down and in the process reducing the space available for vehicular traffic.
“Here, we stick to our park, and our side of the road, but the traders are in the habit of moving into the road in a bid to be the ones to attract buyers first. This makes it hard for us to navigate smoothly to our space without hitting goods and people. So we are forced to stop passengers at any available space.”
Residents of the area have a different story to tell concerning the location of the market, the cause of traffic snarl in the area and the solution to it all.“The traders and the transporters have equal share of blame, for their utter lack of respect for traffic rules in the area,” fumed an aggrieved resident. “The traffic situation around that market is terrible, and you can be in a traffic snarl within this neighbourhood for over an hour. Both the traders and the transporters are equally liable for what is happening here as they do not obey, or follow traffic rules. The traders are in constant competition with themselves. That explains why they are constantly pouring into the road to grab buyers, especially workers that are returning home. As they are creating this confusion, the transporters are also scrambbling for passengers,” he added.
Ochuko, who also resides in the area, blames LASTMA officials for their failure to bring erring motorists to book. Even though she said officials of Kick Against Indiscipline (KIA), sometimes do their best to maintain sanity when the traders begin to act irrationally.
“We have LASTMA officials going back and forth in the area, but they are incapable of instilling sanity and calling errant transporters and traders to order. Instead, they look the other way when some vehicles drive against the traffic, and that alone is capable of disrupting the smooth flow of vehicular traffic. Whether they are bribed to do this is yet to be ascertained. So, in my opinion, government officials also contribute their quota to the disruption of free flow of traffic here.
“So what the government needs to do is to appropriately sensitise the people and thereafter compel them to stick to the rules, as a lot of them behave as if they do not know their left from right.”On whether the market should be relocated outright, in view of the nuisance in constitutes and since it was not supposed to be there in the first instance, she responded in the negative.
“The market should not be scrapped, but activities within and around it should be further regulated, especially at night when everyone there throws caution to the wind. During the day, the traders there conduct themselves, but at night, they simply go beserk. “It would be great if some KAI officials are made to stay behind in places like these under special arrangements in order to ensure that sanity reigns. Of course, they should be adequately compensated for working extra hours.
According to the treasurer of Ejigbo Local Council, Mr. Alli Balogun, the location of the market was never intended to serve that purpose, as no government would build a market in the middle of an expressway.“After the January 27, 2002 Ikeja Cantonment bomb blast that claimed many lives, the Lagos State government took it upon itself to construct a bridge there. However, the traders that were there protested to the government that they have been displaced from where they were selling to make ends meet. So, the government, in its magnanimity decided to allow them to use the median strip for a night market, while waiting for a permanent solution to their problem.”
He added that their continuous use of the facility was because government has sympathy for them, and does not want people to lose their sources of income in the face of rising joblessness in the country.Balogun, who declined commenting on the official status of the market, especially in the light of the signpost erected by the Iyaloja General, said: “There was a time the Lagos State Task Force attempted to rid the median of traders. The traders then appealed to the Ministry of Environment, and they were allowed to continue using the median, as well as a yet-to-be tarred street bordering the market, that is if you are coming from Canoe Street.”
He added that the traders were still allowed to operate from that location by the ministry as far as the sanitary condition of the place was not compromised. Despite the constant difficult traffic situation around the market, Balogun claims that government always ensures that the traders stay within permitted areas, so that they do not constitute a nuisance to themselves and other road users.
He further claimed that the council has been monitoring events in the area and enforcing the law when necessary to ensure that they are not breached.He cited the presence of men of the Nigerian Police and other security agencies as evidence of government’s determination to maintain law and order, and ensure that the traders and commercial transporters operate within bounds.
Sole Administrator of the council, Mr. Ibrahim Adigun, added that the council would continue to do all within its powers to curb the activities of lawless traders, as well as that of commercial transport owners in order to ensure that their activities to not lead to a breakdown of law and order.