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Nigeria: Lagos Trade Fair Complex - Crisis Looms At International Centre for Commerce

Serious crisis looms at the multi-billion naira International Centre for Commerce, ICC, at the Trade Fair complex, Lagos following cries of alleged mismanagement of funds and high handedness being levelled against the Board of Trustees in connivance with the leadership of the Balogun Business Association, BBA, that owns the centre.

The popular market located around Lagos/Badagry expressway, situated on a large expanse of land in the area was meant to be a massive commercial hub in the country.
The centre is an offshoot of Balogun market on the Lagos Island which was said to be one of the biggest open markets in West Africa.
The traders had to relocate to their present site at the Trade Fair complex on September 13, 2002 as a result of incessant harassment and intimidation by miscreants popularly called Area boys on the Lagos Island.
The centre is made up of traders, professionals and corporate bodies operating under the name International Centre for Commerce, ICC, owned by Balogun Business Association, BBA. It was leased in 1994 while the construction of markets and shops started in 2000.
These shops were constructed through communal efforts of the business men and women. However, the federal government which is the owner of the land came in to assist the traders by constructing roads and providing electricity.
Expectedly, as soon as business kicked off in earnest at the new site, the leadership of the market started recording appreciable successes and raking in huge revenue.
They reportedly started with an annual budget of N180 million but was increased to N300million and in 2011, it got to N330million.
This revenue came from daily utilities which include payments for electricity, environment and other bills. It got to a point that the annual income of the market rose astronomically to N500million especially when there was a windfall like money realised from allocation of lands and other bills.
In spite of all these very notable achievements, danger seems to be lurking in the centre. There are visible signs of discontentment and general disillusionment as some stakeholders in the market are asking for the removal of, not just their leadership but also the entire members of the Board of Trustees in the market.
A two-time Financial Secretary of the union, Chief Godwin Umennabuike who said he joined the business men in 1994 before the relocation to Badagry expressway unequivocally stated that sanity was urgently needed in the market.
He said, "we had problem in the centre in 2004 which lasted for 30 months as a result of leadership crisis. We gave the leadership the opportunity to organise us but along the line, they started derailing by failing in their duties in the market. The infrastructure started decaying, the roads were so bad and they incurred debts totalling about N55 million to the Federal government.
The debt arose over their default in the monthly payment of N7million to the federal government as lease agreement.
During the crisis, a lot of damages were recorded but when we came in, we cleared the huge debt. We did well by addressing a lot of problems plaguing ICC.
"After that regime, we started having problems with members of the Board of Trustees who wanted to perpetuate themselves in power. They have been holding sway and teleguiding every leadership in the centre unlike what happens in other markets like ASPANDA where their founders have retired and gave them free hands to run their markets.
Recently, they had a windfall of about N1.7 billion in the centre. It came from the land allocated to us for extension. However, instead of using it to provide the amenities urgently needed, they shared it among themselves. When we were in charge of ICC, we itemised the things needed like sewage, fire service and even parking lot to the management board of trade fair.
Land was given to us specifically for these necessities. However, instead of the land allocated for these projects to be used for that purpose, they started allocating it illegally and making so much money for themselves."
Former 1st Vice President of the union, Chief Pascal Ude also stated; "The government should therefore come to our aid and restore sanity in the market.
Danger is looming and if it is not checked now, the crisis that will follow will be unquantifiable. Rmours that the windfall may have been innapropriately handled should be taken seriously and should be thoroughly investigated by the EFCC, ICPC or both.
"The cabal and our BOT have succeeded in manipulating our constitution by creating other guidelines they call constitution to suit their personal interests.
Every leadership has its constitution to work with. Members of the BOT drafted another constitution that said they are life members of the market.
That is the constitution they use now. It is very unfortunate that they submitted two different copies of our constitution to the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC, and such an act was accepted. It shows that CAC is conniving with them in such illegality.
CAC should tell us why they should accept two constitutions instead of one from an association like ours. It is affecting the market adversely."
The former Financial secretary, Chief Ummennabuikealso stated:
"A 10-man committee was set up some time ago to review the constitution and I was the chairman. Unfortunately after carrying out a very good and widely accepted review, the cabal still manipulated it.
In the reviewed constitution, we removed the vexatious issue of life membership and stated unequivocally that after five years, our leaders must seek renewal from the general assembly but they wickedly removed that progressive clause and dumped the constitution to gather dust."
Former secretary of the association, Chief Beed Onwwuasanya also echoed his grievances. "There is general discontentment in the market. What we need now is for the account of the windfall to be rendered.
They should also go and register our constitution so that our leaders will no longer be teleguided by the BOT whose members have been in power for over thirteen years now. Worse still, an association that makes millions daily has no fixed deposit account. They resort to borrowing any time the need arises. They lack managerial ability totally."
However, in a swift reaction, Chief Anthony Obih, the President, Balogun Business Association, trade fair complex stated that the allegation that the leadership of the association was using thugs to intimidate other members of the association was false. " This is Nigeria where people have their human rights; if anyone's right has been assaulted, he should seek redress legally.