By Stellamaris Ashinze, News Agency of Nigeria
The relocation of Ikeja Computer Village in Lagos to Katangowa, Agbado Oke-Odo Local Council Development Area has been in the pipeline for so many years.
Because of the huge expanse of the new computer village estimated at N40 billion, many people are wondering whether the relocation is realistic and will come soon.
There are also fears of the usual displacement of poor traders under the pretence of relocating or building an ultra-modern market that may eventually be out of their reach.
Going down memory lane, the relocation of Ikeja Computer Village was first initiated between 2006 and 2007 by the then Governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu.
This is a move inspired by the Lagos State Government to develop Africa’s largest Information and Communications Technology (ICT) business park to be at par with the modern day city of Lagos.
Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu also reinstated his commitment toward the relocation of the computer village through the State Ministry of Urban and Physical Planning.
Many people threw their weight behind the relocation of the Ikeja Computer Village.
The Chief Executive Officer, Bridgeways Global Project Ltd., Mr Jimmy Onyemenam, said the relocation of the computer village had been on for several years.
Onyemenam noted that construction had started on the new ICT Business Park where the computer village is to be relocated.
It will be recalled that before now, there was a flag-off ceremony to create awareness on the relocation of the computer village.
According to Onyemenam, the main reason for the launch is to create further awareness and create further insight that it is affordable because Sterling bank’s alternative finance is providing funding for those who cannot afford it.
“The flag-off is to create further awareness and we have liased with Sterling Alternative Finance to provide fund for traders to pay over seven years.
“The bank is ready to provide fund for the traders to pay back within seven years; it is more or less like a lease to own shop.
“The price is cheap and the government is supportive and doing all things possible for the relocation of the computer village to the ICT Business Park,” he said.
He said that with the new instructions from the governor, about 3,000 temporary stalls had been erected for the traders in Katangowa Market so as not to be displaced.
Onyemanam said that it was crystal clear that the train had started moving and that the relocation was real.
He urged traders in the computer village should take advantage of the opportunity.
He said the main thrust of the project could be in the phase two because it would be about software development, technology development and ICT incubation hub.
Onyemenam said it would be as well as empowering people and not a dumping ground for Western and Asian countries where we buy from them and nothing to offer.
According to him, we have very brilliant and talented people and the phase two of the project would offer opportunities for them to be able to excel and develop things.
He said that through the business park, the country would be able to project such talents so as to advance homegrown technology.
Highlighting the affordability of the shops, Onyemenam said that it would be at the reach of all and those who would not have the money could meet with Sterling Alternative banking to fund them.
He said that those interested could pay Sterling Bank for over seven years, saying that they should be able to afford the shop; though prices might likely go up based on the current market rate.
Onyemenam emphasised that traders at Katangowa were not displaced because the governor in his magnanimity instructed the erection of about 3,000 temporary stalls for the traders at Kantagowa so as not to be displaced.
Medina Kareem, a member of staff of Sterling Alternative Finance said that the bank was working in coalition with computer village traders and offering them finance to own spaces in the ICT park with very convenient and affordable financing options.
Kareem said that it allowed them to pay as little as N116,000 per month, saying that all they needed to do was to be a member of the associations in computer village.
She said that a trader would make a commitment deposit of five per cent of the shop value, saying that the shop was about N6 million.
She said that what the bank was offering the traders was not an interest-based facility but a non-interest based facility.
“What it means is that once the bank mentions the price and there is an agreement on the rates, the contract is signed and the bank will not change the rate and the period of the financing,’’ Kareem said.
According to her, for instance for this particular transaction, we are offering them 17 per cent per annum for seven years; it means that you are paying no interest but rents per annum.
She said that there were no hidden charges and the other fee to be paid was life insurance.
“In the event of the unfortunate like death, the insurance companies will come in,’’ she noted.
Kareem said that the bank was partnering with the associations because the bank management knew their members and they referred them to the bank, saying that in case of default, the association would be contacted to urge their members to pay.
“When their members persist and refuse to pay, we work with the association to evict the customer and reallocate to another customer,’’ she said.
According to her, in this instance, the beneficiary is not only paying for the use of the asset but also paying toward owing the assets.
Traders at Ikeja Computer Village expressed their readiness for relocation of the market to the new ICT Business Park at Katangowa in Agbado Oke-Odo area of Lagos.
The traders pleaded with the state government to ensure completion of the first phase of the project within 24 months as scheduled.
The Lagos State Government initiated the relocation of Ikeja Computer Village to a new site following environmental and physical planning challenges.
Mr Timi-David Famuroti, President, Coalition of Associations in the Computer Village (COCAVIN), comprising of 18 associations, said they were excited about the new ICT Business Park project.
Famuroti said that the proposed Kantagowa ICT Park would afford members the opportunity to work in a dignified environment.
He said that the present Ikeja Computer Village had become choked and taken over by all sorts of negative things, including street trading and lawlessness.
‘’We are excited that businesses could be transacted in a more conducive environment.
‘’I want to implore all our members to key into the project as the project is made for all.
“I want to encourage everyone to key in because I am sure that after the two years, government will come in to make the present environment what it is supposed to be,’’ he said.
Mr Ifeanyi Akubue, President of Phone and Allied Products Dealers Association of Nigeria (PAPDAN), said the new ICT Business Park was a dream waiting to be fulfilled.
Akubue said that the present Ikeja Computer Village had no room for expansion, saying that the environment was not befitting for an ICT hub.
`‘So we need a more befitting and organised place for our business.
‘’The Lagos State Government has made a confirmation of the movement by providing access roads to the hub as well as a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) terminal; so this confirms the reality of the relocation.
According to him, the traders are sure of the reality of the project and are ready to move to the new site.
Akubue said that members had been helped to secure loans from banks, saying that the issue of unidentified individual operators would be a thing of the past at the new hub.
The PAPDAN president said that government had said that location, Ikeja Computer Village, was not a market and that it would be restored to its former status.
Mr Jerry Mba, Secretary of Computer Village Representatives Committee, said the state government’s decision to relocate the hub to a more conducive environment was ideal to uphold its international image.
According to him, the computer village as it is today is no longer good enough for business transactions due to the social vices that have given the hub a negative image.
He appealed to Bridgeways developers, building the new ICT park, to ensure its completion within 24 months to enable the traders actualise their dream of a befitting and conducive business environment.
Mr Kehinde Apara, President, Association of Mobile Communications Device Technicians (AMCODET) said the technicians were the livestream of the ICT Business Park and as such eager to be part of it.
Apara said that the project would soon become a reality after so many years of speculation.
Also speaking on the project, the Head of Project at Bridgeways Developers, Mr Niyi Otegbade, assured the traders that the project would be delivered in 24 months as scheduled.
Otegbade said that the ICT Business Park had been designed to meet the expectations of all to trade in a conducive environment and project its image internationally as the biggest ICT hub in West Africa.
He said that the concerns of various stakeholders had been taken care of, saying that work had commenced to complete the first phase of the project on schedule.
Going by the enthusiasm displayed by the traders and measures put in place by the Lagos State Government, the developer and the different associations in the Computer village to ensure a smooth relocation, the relocation will soon be a reality.