The number of robbery cases recorded in the last two months in Lagos State has increased, though few people seem to pay attention to the development, citizens in the state now go to bed with one eye open. Many have also attributed this development to the closure of Yaba market, or maybe it is a coincidence.

A visit to the market recently revealed that over 300 youths that used to make their living in the market have become idle. As they say, an idle mind is the devil’s workshop, and some people have attributed the high level of robbery in the state to idleness.

P.M.NEWS gathered that many traders have been forced to join the already crowded railway section of the market, making it impossible for traders to display their goods.

Buyers find it tasking to choose what they desire in the confusing jumble and as such, they no longer patronize the traders. Some of the traders still roam about, trying to persuade customers to follow them to their stores, since they have been restricted by security agents from displaying their goods around the market.

A trader, Izuchukwu Ogu, told P.M.NEWS that he is not surprised that the armed robbery in the state is on the rise. “We used to have over 4,000 guys hustling in this market; today they are no more, where do you think they have gone? Many have taken to armed robbery just to make ends meet because most of the guys in this market are family men, some of them hustle here with their wives,” he said. He further explained that, “the government is blaming only the traders when a Kick Against Indiscipline, KAI, agent was stabbed in the eye. They fail to understand that the KAI agents were extorting money from us on a daily basis”.

“We even lost a trader due to their harassment and intimidation, yet nobody is ready to listen to us, we are suffering seriously,” he added.

Another trader, Mrs Okafor Uche, told P.M.NEWS that business has been very dull, and it has become very difficult to make a profit of N1,000 a day. “Before, I used to make enough profit to support my husband who is also a trader in this market, but it is very tough now; my husband is no longer selling here, he has gone to share a shop with somebody at Ojuelegba. He is not selling much because he has lost most of his customers. It is also not easy for me here, because the number of buyers is below expectation,” she said

A soft drink seller, Mrs Yemisi Ayodeji, explained that many Lagosians depended on Yaba market for income and since the closure of the market, many people have turned to odd jobs for survival.

“The traders in this market were struggling to earn a living and the government decided to displace without relocating them. Some of those who cannot endure may turn to armed robbery for survival. Nobody is happy with the situation, and you know you cannot underestimate a desperate man,” she said

Alhaji Isa Usman, a bureau de change operator in the market, added that they are not in support of crime but the situation leaves most of the traders with no other choice. “If you look at the number of men and women that used to sell in this market, you will not be surprised at the alarming rate at which some have turned to crime and prostitution. When they are caught, they may not tell you they are boys from Yaba market, but it is possible for some of the boys to engage in such activities.

“We will be glad if the government does something, because not only traders are suffering, the society is also negatively affected,” he added.

Other traders sat under the scorching sun, looking at their goods and waiting for buyers who have decided to stay away, at least for now.

—Kashimana Beba & Motunrayo Idris