By Daniel Ayantoye
Victims of the of the Baboko market (Oja-Tuntun) fire outbreak have alleged extortion by the Ilorin West Local Government of Kwara State in a bid to reconstruct their burnt shops.
The victims who claimed to have paid the sum of N600,000 to officials from the council under the present Caretaker Committee, added that after waiting without intervention from the government for six months, they decided to embark on the rebuilding of their burnt shops themselves but were asked by the council to forthwith jettison such move.
Some of the victims who spoke in separate interviews with this medium on Tuesday after a meeting with council officials lamented their plight.
A victim of the fire incident who identified herself as Iya Laide said, “They have collected about N600,000 from us and did not embark on the reconstruction of our shops. A child almost suffered fracture in his leg when rubbles of a burnt shop fell on him. We took collective decision to rebuild our shops since the government has not shown concern in this regard.
“It is not that we are happy that our shops get burnt all the time, but what are we going to do? We have continued to put our faith in God,” she added.
In the same vein, Idayat Alade who also affirmed the allegation, disclosed that the said amount was not collected from individuals but through the union.
While giving insight into the issue, the Majekobaje Union of Oja-Tuntun through its Public Relations Officer, Femi Ajayi said there had been an earlier agreement between the local government and the traders to commence the reconstruction before the state government through the Special Assistant to the Governor on Commerce stopped the effort.
“I can’t say if there was payment or not. There will be a meeting, there you can ask that question.
“On the issue of the shops, we had an agreement with the local government and they said we should provide a written document that the traders will not claim the shops from them and it was done, it was after that that we were asked to meet the SA commerce who said such has political implication,” he explained.
Meanwhile, the Transition Implementation Committee (TIC) Chairman of Ilorin West, Abdulwahab Olelele debunked the allegation saying, “I am not aware of anything of such. There is a procedure for everything, any payment to the council must have been receipted and paid to the appropriate quarters.
“The fire incident involving the 40 shops at Oja-Tuntun occurred before we assumed office, I don’t know if they have paid to the past council, but I am not aware of anything of such.
“When I heard that the traders have started reconstruction of the shops by themselves, I went there at the weekend and later asked my people to stop them but they couldn’t because of the crowd. We have an approved plan by the state government and it is the Kwara Internal Revenue Service (KWIRS) that will handle the rebuilding of the shops.” he added.