Jankara market: Traders recount ordeal after demolition

A cross section of the demolished market
A cross section of the demolished market

The traders sat by the side of Ojo Giwa Street, calling out desperately to every passerby, advertising their wares and convincing them to buy from them.

Every now and then, the traders, who are predominantly women, looked back to the demolished shanties that once served as their market – Jankara.

Jankara market, which was built in 1930 by traders in Lagos Island, is now in ruins following the demolition exercise by the Lagos State Government.

On Monday, January 20, 2020, the Lagos State Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Idris Salako, gave a two-week notice to the traders at the Jankara market to vacate the premises as the place would be demolished.

According to the commissioner, vacating the market was important as government’s renewal plan for Lagos Island was about to commence.

He stressed that clearing  the market was in tandem with the agenda of the state government to make Lagos cleaner, and for a total redevelopment of Lagos Island.

He said the redevelopment of the area would usher in infrastructure renewal as the people would enjoy modern health, recreational and road infrastructures.

But barely three days after the notice was issued, the government rolled out its bulldozers and demolished the market, leaving the traders home and dry.

The only structure still left as at the time of writing this report was a toilet.

The massive land, which once accommodated the booming market, has become a dumping site where scavengers pick dirt abandoned by residents and market women.

On one side of the Idumagbo/Adeniji Adele part of the market, street urchins sat in one corner smoking their lives out. The smell of the cigarettes, Indian hemp and other substances, could be perceived, even from a distance.

The market, which was once a lively place, has been reduced to a smoking joint.

The women have taken their wares to the streets and the vicinity of the demolished market to hawk, just to survive.

The drainage at the side of the market where traders sell their wares has been blocked with all sorts of filth.  Empty sachets of water sachet, bottles, disposable eating plates were floating on the black stagnant water in the drainage that demarcates the Jankara market and Ojo Giwa Street, where the traders currently operate.

Notwithstanding the stench oozing from the drainage, the traders sat there in anticipation that the demolished structures in the market would be rebuilt by the government.

Our correspondent learnt that part of the market was demolished on March 13, 2008 by the local government, with a promise to rebuild it within two years.

When our correspondent visited the place, there were looks of disappointment and anguish on the faces of the market women affected by the demolition.

Some of the traders who spoke to Daily Trust on Sunday lamented that the two-weeks notice was yet to elapse before the demolition was carried out.

“The two weeks never came as the demolition occurred two days after the commissioner visited.

“Everyone packed their things and had to find one place to display their wares,” a trader said.

According to one of the leaders of the market, Alhaja Alasho, Jankara market has been well known for various traditional items.

“The market, known as ‘Oja Ibasiri’ by some and ‘Oja Abalaye’ by others, had 14 divisions at inception. Some of the exclusive items in the divisions sold in large quantities are ileke ibile, also known as beads, aso-oke, herbs, coal, gold, kolanut, second hand clothes by Tapa descendants.

“Other things we sell at the market include meat, all kinds of plates and stainless steel, watches, kampala, ankara and adire, live chicken and pots. Tailors are also part of the 14 divisions”, she said.

Alhaja Alasho, who has been in the market for over 50 years, explained that she inherited cloth selling business from her mother, adding she has been selling there ever since she was of age.

Just like her mother introduced her to the business, she has also introduced her children to it and has even used the proceeds from the market to finance her children’s education.

The children too have been selling at the market anytime they are on vacation.

Another trader simply identified as Alhaja, who sells beads, polythene bags and other items, also inherited her store from her parents, who equally inherited it from her grandparents.

She said her grandparents sold meat and her mother sells cloths, but she decided to deal in beads.

Another trader who specialises in ankara, kampala, Guinea brocade and cloths for Eyo festival, noted that the demolition of the market had affected her and other traders greatly.

She explained how she, along with others, got a store elsewhere to keep their wares to avoid losing them to robbers.

This, she said, was not necessary when they had a shop at the market.

Another aged trader who sells plates, glassware and pots, expressed her worries to our correspondent, saying, “I live at Imowe Ibafo in Ogun State and I have been selling here for many years.

“Keeping my goods has become very difficult as I cannot take it home every day. Those who live around have no problem since they can take their goods home, but where will I keep my wares so that they will not be stolen?

“Government is not fair to us. They told us two weeks; but now they came here and demolished it few days after the notice.”

Another trader, Mrs Folorunsho (not real name) said it had been hard for her to survive.

She said Jankara market traders, who have found refuge by the side of the road, were constantly being harassed by different people for selling by the roadside.

Our correspondent gathered that many traders who were displaced from the market and had no place to sell, had developed high blood pressure and stroke.

Alasho, who has risen to become one of the leaders in the textile business at the market, insisted that although government gave no reason for the demolition, of the market, there was a pre-demolition promise of relocating the traders to another place.

She said there would be a meeting between the Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development and market leaders on Wednesday, January 29 at Alausa.

Reliving memories of the good old days, the textile seller said, “Our market, also referred to as Oja Abalaye, is known in Nigeria and overseas. Some foreign nationals usually visit us to buy things from this market. There is no other market in the whole of Lagos Island where there is a convergence of traditional items like Jankara. Kings and chiefs patronise the market anytime there is a traditional festival around the corner.

“Beads are bought here, along with aso-oke, and the tailors are on standby to sew them. Anytime there would be Eyo festival, they buy cloths from Jankara.

“We don’t have anywhere to go; we are not affluent. We are pleading with everyone to help us appeal to the government. Asiwaju Bola Tinubu should please help us now as he did before. When the market got burnt several years ago, he assisted in rebuilding it.

“Now, he should help us again to plead with the government. We are also members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and we usually vote during elections. We are begging the Lagos State Government to return the market to its former self, where we had 14 divisions, as well as help subsidise the price so we can afford it,” Alasho said.

Expectations of the traders that the state government would rebuild the market into a modern facility for them to continue their trading are high.

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