Access -3,000 Shops. DENIED
Is this truly a government of the people? Ikota Shopping Complex is located on the Lekki/Epe expressway, beside the Victoria Garden City(VGC) residential estate. The place has over 20,000 people working in 3,000 shops with a net worth between 15-20 billion naira making it the largest shopping complex in Nigeria. Then there is Lagos Concessional Company (LCC), the builders of the Lagos tollgates, and the Lagos State government on the other hand. LCC is expanding the Lekki/Epe expressway and are now working on the Ajah axis of the road. They have blocked the access to the shops and instead, created a roundabout facing Victoria Garden City. The gate to VGC is about thirty metres from Road 1, Ikota Shopping Complex.
The members of the executive of the Ikota Shopping complex shop owners and stakeholders association have repeatedly met with LCC and the Lagos State government asking for the roundabout to be located thirty metres away from its present position(this was while the roundabout was in draft state) to favour VGC and Ikota Shopping Complex. They have been refused.
On November 23, the association staged a peaceful protest against LCC and the Lagos state government. They had planned to take the protest march to the highway facing the complex, but were refused permission by the Lagos State Police who deployed four patrol vehicles of policemen armed with guns and teargas launchers to enforce order.
The associated circulated notices and sent out text messages to the shop owners notifying them that the complex will be locked between 9am-10am to mobilise for the protest. By 9am on Friday, the president of the association Mrs O.O. Akinpelu, flanked by Mr. Patrick Baghanlo addressed the crowd gathered round the locked gate to road 1. Many of the people gathered agreed that the blocking off of access to the Shopping complex had slowed down business, as many potiential customers find it difficult driving through the persistent traffic jam between the VGC roundabout and Ilaje bus stop to turn at the ever-busy Ajah roundabout. The conveners of the protest read out the statistics for the importance of the shopping complex, and why it should have received preference over and above all other businesses located around the expressway. The big question was why did Oriental Hotel,a business with a net worth of about 3 billion naira, should be given access while another business worth so much more should be blocked out of relevance!
The protesters marched from one end of the parking lot of the Ikota Shopping complex to the other, but this piqued the anger of observers who felt the march should be done along the road, in the full glare of the public. They headed for the main road and put up road blocks, but the police soon moved in on them and threw away the road blocks. A lot of business owners have already closed down due to poor patronage. A hairdresser with a salon within the premises even predicted that more people will move out by January. Someone else spoke of the fear that it may even get worse now, if the LCC decides to put up a fence barricade and wall like they did along the road by The Palms. The gates were soon opened. It was business as usual, and most of the crowd who had gathered for the protest(mainly shop workers and office assistants) trudged in to their various shops, to wait, to sleep away. And at the end of the month come bills-salaries for staff, service charge and electric bills etc. Fewer people walk into the complex these days. The weather is unfriendly.