By Patience Akpuru-Egwuwa

It is a hot afternoon at one of the busiest spare parts markets in the world, Ladipo ultra-Modern International Spare Parts Market, located in the Mushin Area of Lagos.

Akin Amos, a dark complexioned middle-aged man, had his wares spread out on a small old table.  Amos sells used phone batteries in the market. It was already past mid-day and he was yet to make sales.  

That was not his main worry on this particular day and time.  What worried Amos more was the many hands he has to give money at the market, whether he makes sales or not.  Amos, alongside thousands of other petty traders who sell things other than spare parts in the market, risks their goods being confiscated if they failed to pay N100 each to the not less than 10 area boys that come to them every blessed day.

Amos told Sunday Sun what a struggle business has been for most traders in the market. Their troublers don’t care whether they make sales or not, he explained.

“They don’t care whether you sell or not. What they know is to collect the money, which they used to drink and smoke and do all sorts of rubbish.  Sometimes I bring money from home when coming to the market to settle them.  It is just too much for us.  In a day, I pay N800 to N1,000.  How much do I make here?  And we don’t know what to do.

“We pay money without receipts.  Assuming that it is government, they will give us receipt.  It is just a group of people that came together and started collecting money.  We pay N100 to about eight to 10 groups.  Like today now, I have paid N800, which is Wednesday.  On Monday, I pay N700.  Some days, like Saturdays I pay N1,000.  We don’t really know what is happening.”

On what the money was being used for, Amos said: “It is only the N100 we pay on Thursday, that I know they said is for environmental sanitation.  The rest of the money I don’t know what they are using it for.”

Another trader who deals in spare parts by the roadside, said that they pay weekly to the market authorities.  The man who appeared to be in his 50s refused to give his name, saying that he does not want anything to happen to his source of livelihood.  

He, however, blamed everything on the state government, which he believes favours touts over hard working citizens.

“It is what the APC (All Progressives Congress) caused.  It is government of Agberos.  The government gave them the liberty to operate.  That is what we are seeing in the market”.

Sunday Sun further spoke with a heavily pregnant mother of two who deals in second-hand clothes who said the situation was very tiring.  

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Gladys who claimed that she pays close to N1,000 everyday, said that they have become helpless because nobody is listening to them.

“If I don’t give them money, they will just pack my clothes.  There is nobody to complain to.  It seems like they told all the youths that are jobless to come to Ladipo and be collecting money.”

When contacted, the Executive Chairman of Ladipo Ultra-Modern International Auto Spare Parts Market, Prince Africanus Ogudoro, said that his office does not collect money from the traders.

“They know the people that are collecting money from them. the local government can collect money; Alaye boys (touts) can collect money from them.  Ordinarily when you are selling by the roadside, you can face anything.  They are outside our purview because the roadside is not market.”

In the same vein, the Ladipo Central Executive Auto Dealers Association (LASEC) also washed its hands off the alleged tolls.  

The Assistant General Secretary, Dimanyichie Ugochukwu, said: “Trading by the roadside is illegal, according to Lagos State government.  The state government prohibits street trading.  Inside the market, there are so many shops that are unoccupied.  There are plazas and complexes that are newly built.  So, we tell our people who are selling on the roadside to get a shop.”

When it comes to the money being collected, he said: “Mushin Local government through its agents is the one collecting most of the money from roadside traders.  This office has nothing to do with anything street trading.

“We have put in so much effort to make sure that we bring street trading to its barest minimum.  We have tried all we could and we found out that we cannot eradicate street trading.  We normally carry out periodic sensitization warning people of the dangers of street trading.  It used to be worse than it is now.  Before now, the whole road will be blocked by people selling things other than spare parts.  It affects our business because our customers cannot easily access the road to the market.  We were able to chase them away from the road, but gradually they are returning to the road.  From time to time, we do the enforcement.  We are doing our best.”  When contacted, the Executive Chairman of Mushin Local Government Area, Hon. Emmanuel Bamigboye told Sunday Sun that his office did not order the collection of tolls from the market.  

“We are not the one sending any agent to collect money at all. We are not responsible for that. There are many associations in the market, but if I can get evidence, we can track them down and hand them over to the police. We only collect money from those that are using shops, which is a yearly thing.” 

The chairman promised to track down the perpetrators and make sure that justice is served. 

“If they don’t give them receipts, it simply means that they are fake. And with this information, I am going to send some of our security people to that place and even warn the different associations that exist there to ensure that we track them down.”