The closure of the Santana market on Sapele Road, Benin City by Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State would render about 4,000 women and young people jobless, stakeholders have said.
Recall Governor Obaseki had ordered the closure of the market, citing the lack of basic amenities for proper operations of an open market in the vicinity.
However, speaking with newsmen on Friday, one of the co-owners of the parcel of land housing the market, Solomon Omoregie, said that the action would also create huge unemployment and push women and the Youth into prostitution and crimes in the state.
According to him, the market, which had about 4,000 lock-up stalls, is jointly owned by three families.
He listed the three families to include, the Omoregie, Egbon and the Omorogiuwa families, adding that the land which the market was built was their ancestral land.
“We decided to use our ancestral land to help the poor because of what we saw at that time.
“People called it local market since it was not allowed for an individual to own an open market.
“We built lock-up stalls in the market which is allowed by law and by the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria.
“The market is measuring about 350ft by 300ft and has about 4,000 shops in it. We lost about 350 shops to the fire incident that occurred in the market recently.
“Just recently when the town planners came and said that the market was close to the road we asked them to show us where the market should start from.
“And they measured 100ft from the road and pegged it and we began the process of relocating those affected by the measurement before the fire incident happened,” he said.
According to him, the Dumez market that we are told to relocate to is having only 120 lock-up stalls and it is already congested. So how can 4,000 people move to a space meant for 120 people?
Mr Omoregie explained that they the landlords of the market were ready to rebuild the market to government specifications instead of relocating the traders to another place.
“Government said there are no toilet facilities and other amenities that is why they are closing the market.
“As I speak with you now, we have over five toilet facilities which you can see for yourself; we have two functional boreholes that supply water to the market.
“We pay N60,000 every week to evacuate waste in the market. The market is the cleanest in the state.
“With what is happening now, it is like the fire incident was a deliberate action to forcefully take over the market which they should not.
“We inherited the land as far back as 1897 and we have documents to show for it.
“We are supposed to be getting national award for creating employment for over 4,000 Edo indigenes,” he said.
According to him, Santana market stakeholders are appealing to the governor to have a rethink; we are ready to rebuild it to meet government’s specifications.
He, however, stated that most of the women affected by the closure were widows, bread winners of the families and unemployed youth.