Thursday, August 23, 2012

Nigerians build International Market in Benin Republic

‘…We’ll launch it before end of Sept’
President, NIDO Cotonou Chapter, Pastor Julius Adebamibo Aderinto.

After almost 40 years, Nigerian traders have finally relocated from Mache Missebo (Missebo Market) in Cotonou, Benin Republic.


Although Marche Missebo was established long before the famed Biafra Market berthed in the Beninese economic capital, it is widely believed that Marche Missebo’s status was considerably enhanced by the arrival around 1969 in Benin Republic by Igbos fleeing collapsing Biafra.


Many of the Igbo refugees in an attempt to pick up the pieces and continue with their lives settled as traders in Cotonou, and that it how the section of Marche Missebo, where stalls owned by Igbo traders were erected came to be called Biafra Market.


Apart from the Igbos that migrated to Cotonou because of Nigeria’s civil war (1967-1970), countless other Nigerians, Igbo and non-Igbo alike, had also washed into Benin Republic as their country’s fortunes dipped due to ill-governance since the General Ibrahim Babangida-led regime, whose structural adjustment programme alias SAP effectually wiped out the country’s middle-class.


Most recently, the state of insecurity engendered by the menacing terrorist sect called Boko Haram across Northern Nigeria generally has forced millions of entrepreneurs, Hausa/Fulani and other Nigerians, to shut down their businesses and flee. Many of these victims have relocated to Benin Republic, partly because it is the nearest to their home country along the West Coast.


Expectedly, as more Nigerians poured into Cotonou, the value of real estates around Missebo and other parts of the city rose as demand had now exceeded supply. Hotels in the Missebo and Tokpa Market neighbourhoods of Cotonou are often fully booked because of the flood of Nigerian traders, importers and even smugglers.


The long and short of it all is that Missebo Market quickly waxed into the Mother of All Markets in Cotonou for most Nigerians. It wouldn’t be long before problems of over-crowding set in.


Then came encroachment on public space like sidewalks, with traders setting up their wares everywhere. Indeed, a section of Cotonou’s commercial vehicle operators began setting up motor parks in hitherto purely residential neighbourhoods. To make matters worse, thieves also entered the picture.


To sanitise Missebo Market, local police frequently stormed the emporium; sometimes, they were invited by disputantes but the police raids were also spontaneous and unexpected.


Traders began to complain of being harassed. There were also rumours of routine extortion. Then public protests began. In the process some Nigerians lost their lives and many were arrested and detained for weeks.


As a permanent way out of the frequent alleged harassment, Nigerians in Cotonou decided to relocated. And, voila! That, in a nutshell is how Nigeria International Market evolved.


Located in Seme Podji, shortly before Porto Novo Roundabout, along the Seme-Cotonou route, Nigeria International Market will be launched before the end of September, this year; according to the President of Cotonou Chapter of Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO), Pastor Julius Aderinto Adebamibo.


During an exclusive chat with mauricearchibongtravels at Gare routiere Internationale Jonquet in Cotonou on Tuesday, 21 August, 2012; this NIDO President revealed that the new market falls within the precinct of Mairie Seme and that, hopefully, alleged harassment suffered at Missebo was now a thing of the past.


He further revealed that over 5,000 application for stalls had been received, whereas 2,700 sheds are available. To address this situation, where demand far outstrips supply, Pastor Aderinto said, priority would be given to those that owned sheds at Missebo before allocation to other traders were made.


With 5,000 applicants scrambling for 2,700 sheds, it didn’t come as a surprise; when Aderinto declared that registration of traders at Nigeria International Market had since closed. “That exercise ended more than two weeks ago (some time in early August)”, he remarked.


Unlike the situation at Missebo, the Nigeria International Market stands on 3 acres of land leased to the Nigerian community for 99 years; revealed Aderinto, who added that the lease was a renewable one. He went on to assure that permanent structures would be erected and that the makeshift sheds on ground were necessary to save Nigerian traders from suffering since they were sacked from Missebo roughly a year ago.


“We have 2,700 sheds on ground now and we had to put up these temporary stalls to help our people. Since they were forced to leave Missebo last year and have had to suspend their business, life has become very hard for too many of them. In fact, there are numerous instances, where the children of some of our people that came here as traders were sent out of school over non-payment of tuition fee”, explained the NIDO chief, while adding that work on the construction of permanent structures will commence as soon as the market began running.


The Cotonou NIDO president said the market would have begun functioning by now, but for the absence of a toilet and source of water. “We believe that the Mairie (Local Government) will eventually extend public electricity to this new market site, which is virgin land; but, for now, we plan to install an electricity generator to power the place.


“We are also putting up public conveniences like toilet. We also need a borehole for water. As I said, the site is virgin land; so, basic infrastructure are necessary before the market can go into operation. This is why we need help”, he mused.


Aderinto again: “Everything we have been doing has been funded from our purse. We hope the Nigerian Government will come to our rescue. The belief is popular that there are over two million Nigerians living in Benin Republic now. This means that Nigerian Government should take our welfare into consideration. Many times, we have had crises here and the embassy could not help us. Why are they (the embassy) here, if they cannot help us?”


Concluding the NIDO President said: “I hope that, given the calibre of our new ambassador here, things will improve. The Nigerian Government must take us serious because we are closest to home and can make the difference during an election.”

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