Thousands of shop owners at the Ayegbaju International Market in Osogbo, the Osun state capital, have taken to the streets to protest allegations of breach of contract and fraudulent transaction deals involving the state government.
They alleged that the agreement before the takeover of the shops from the development management was an out right ownership status, given by the government, but they were taken aback by the sudden reversal of the agreed status which has been changed to to 28 years, a decision which is not acceptable to them.
As residents woke up to the early protest, the presence of heavy security personnel also greeted the protesters, barring the protesters from moving out of the market premises.
Unperturbed, they stood outside the entrance chanting solidarity songs of “save our soul”, carrying various placards bearing inscriptions like “No to 28 years agreement, 99 years agreement is what we were promised”, “Give us electricity and water”, “Owo njo lo” and “We want to meet Governor Aregbesola”
Speaking to newsmen, some of the shop owners said the present location of the stalls is defacing the market, making it lose the international status for which it was designed.
The shop owners also called for the restoration of electricity to the shops as according to them, the Ayegbaju International Market has been without electricity for about two years now.
They also insisted that the promises made by the development management and the state government were not met, thereby leaving the shop owners to their fate.
One of the shop owners, Mr Afeez Azeez, lamenting over their challenges said: “we want to make our stance clear to the government, we are not anti -government, we are only against injustice, we are against 419 and scam, they promised us they will be giving us a standing market here at Ayegbaju International Market.
“The agreement was that it will be an outright purchase of 99 years but to our surprise, they gave us a document reading 28 years, and they are claiming they want to deal with us individually and not as a group, that gives us a signal that they want to scam us.
“If you look at the market now, it’s almost five years that this market was built, it is not functioning, no water and no light, we want the government to come to our rescue, and we cannot afford to lose our money.
“We paid as much as 2.5 million and those who paid for open market paid about N350, 000, it is not small money, they are not helping us.
“We do not care about party but about the welfare of our people, we bought the shop because government promised us that we should buy it, they say they are fully involved, we don’t know Edward, we know Governor Aregbesola, who asked us to investors in this market”
A retiree and spokesperson of the group, Mr Tunde Lawal also said: “I invested part of my gratuity since 2012, nothing has come out of it, I bought two lock-up shops here and I have nothing to live on now because I thought this market will take off immediately.
“In fact by the time I invested here, it was on ground level, but now look at my fate, there is nothing to eat, as a retiree.
“I am begging government to save my soul, my money is being tied down, if I have investments elsewhere I would have known what I would have realised.
“I invested about 1.3 million in 2012, nothing to show for it, please tell me when I will begin to realise my dream” he questioned.
Meanwhile, the Managing Director of the Osun State Investment Company Limited, Mr Bola Oyebamiji, in an attempt to calm the protesters stated that the government is ready to look into the plight of the shop owners.
“Its actually not a complaint, but a town hall meeting, what we are going to do now is we have the mandate of the governor to listen to them and to resolve all the anomalies amicably and we are going to do so very soon.
“The problem is between the development and the shop owners, the government is not involved per say, however this is our environment, it is the duty of the government to maintain peace, that is why the governor insisted that we should be here and resolve it amicably.” he stated.