Computer Village

BY EMEKA EJERE

There is no end in sight to the crisis rocking the popular Computer Village in Ikeja. Lagos. BusinessHallmark has learnt that the traders have commenced the mobilization of all trade associations and ethnic nationalities in the market for a 100,000-man protest march to the Lagos State Government House, Alausa.

The move, it was learnt, is to further strengthen their position against what they described as an imposition of leaders in violation of the rules guiding the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) accessories market.

Findings revealed that peace has eluded the market since last year when Mrs Folashade Tinubu-Ojo, the Iyaloja-General (overall market leader in Lagos State) and daughter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, installed Iyaloja and Babaloja (market leaders) there as some traders remain opposed to the development.

Mrs Tinubu-Ojo had in May 2019 installed Mrs Abisola Azeez as the Iyaloja and Mr Adeniyi Olasoji, who was the former Ogunbiyi CDA chairman, as the Babaloja for the (ICT accessories) market. But the dissenting traders have maintained that Iyaloja and Babaloja titles were applicable “only to markets where foodstuffs and apparels are sold and not in an ICT marketplace.”

The Computer Village is the largest ICT accessory market in Africa and a perfect competition market, under the umbrella of Computer and Allied Products Dealers Association of Nigeria (CAPDAN).

It is located in a community called Otigba, in Ikeja, the capital of Lagos State. Apart from the sales of information and technology accessory, the market also deals in the repair of mobile phones and computers which could either be on software or hardware components depending on the nature of the fault.

Fresh trouble started on Saturday, May 30, when a gate erected by the Ogunbiyi Community Development Association (CDA), at Idowu Lane of the market was allegedly pulled down and carted away on the order of the Iyaloja, who also ordered the arrest of the CDA chairman, the Idowu Lane chairman and one other unidentified man.

Earlier on that fateful day, the traders had shut down the ICT market, paralysing business activities to protest alleged constant assault on the people by some hoodlums believed to be working for the market leaders. The situation prompted a call by the traders on the state government to intervene to prevent a breakdown of law and order.

Vice-chairman of Ogunbiyi CDA, Mr Timi Davies, told newsmen that his people were tired of the constant harassment. Davies, who doubles as the chairman of Coalition of Associations in Computer Village, said, “This is an ICT business hub; this is not a market where they sell pepper and tomatoes. Therefore, installing Babaloja and Iyaloja here is a misnomer. Computer Village does not belong to the market women association for Christ’s sake.

“We have made our position clear that we do not want these people. They do not represent us because we have our different associations to which we belong. Moreover, they have continued to harass and assault people here to the extent that customers are already running away from the business environment for fear of being harassed.

Giving an account of the event that sparked the fresh crisis, Davies said, “What happened Saturday is that the CDA erected a gate at Idowu Lane to protect the market from burglars which were witnessed during the lockdown.

“We approached the local government, being our supervising body, and we were approved. But in the evening, Iyaloja sent hoodlums to remove the gate while she also ordered the arrest of the CDA chairman and others.

“Their offence for being arrested was that they didn’t take permission from Iyaloja and Babaloja before erecting the gate to protect their goods from being stolen.”

Taking permission from the Iyaloja or Babaloja would have meant recognizing their authority and a contradiction of the position of the traders. However, in her reaction, the Iyaloja claimed that “the Idowu Lane where the gate was erected has always been part of Computer Village.”

She noted that there were arches built by TECNO mobile with signboards of Iyaloja at all the entrances of Computer Village.

“Suddenly, some people just thought they can cordon off Idowu Lane, claiming it is not part of Computer Village and they want to be alone”, she fumed. “These unscrupulous elements wanted to try my authority by removing Idowu Lane as part of Computer Village.

“That was why they went to erect the gate there without my knowledge and I cannot be looking for people who hold the keys to the market when I am in charge.”

One of the traders, who preferred unanimity, told BusinessHallmark yesterday {June 9) that one of the major problems the traders face in the hands of the imposed leadership is extortion from time to time although they pay their lawful taxes.

He said, “People are being asked to contribute some money, which we felt was extortion since we pay our regular taxes, income taxes and what have you. Now we have made up our mind to stage a massive nationwide protest to demand the sack of the market leaders.

“Our appeal is that the Iyaloja General should immediately remove the market leaders she appointed and then call us to a meeting. We have commenced the mobilization of all trade unions, human rights organisations and Nigerians of all different persuasions to stage a massive protest to the state House of Assembly.”

When contacted, the public relation officer of the Coalition of Associations in Computer Village, Mr Ademola Olaifa confirmed that there has been an existing issue since the installation of Iyaloja. He recalled that the traders had taken the matter to the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs and Lagos State House of Assembly but they said the status quo should remain.

“Since the Installation of Iyaloja and Babaloja here it has been the various degree of victimisation, extortion and bullying, they send their boys to beat up people almost every day, we are tired”, he lamented.

Our investigations revealed that the traders remain resolute in their rejection of imposed leaders because they do not want the Computer Village to be reduced to the level of conventional markets in Lagos, where traders are often at the mercy of such leaders and their ‘boys’ who hold them to ransom for rendering no service.

Mrs Tinubu-Ojo could not be reached for comments as at the time of filing this report her known telephone line was switched off; neither did she reply the text message sent to her phone.

Our Correspondent, however, gathered that the Iyaloja General had held a meeting with all the associations in the Computer Village and CDA leaders on Monday evening (June 8) to resolve the impasse.

One of her aides, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that efforts were being made to resolve the lingering crisis. It was learnt that at the end of the meeting, Mrs Tinubu-Ojo declared that she never asked any representative to illegally tax the traders and that her name was only being dragged in the mud.

A former vice-president of CAPDAN, Mac Eze, confirmed the meeting held, adding that the traders remained opposed to the Iyaloja and Babaloja titles and insisted that elected CDAs leaders should be allowed to run the markets.

Since there was no sign that the demand of the traders which is the removal of the Iyaloja and Babaloja from the Computer Village was addressed at the meeting, it means that the crisis may be close to anything but an end.