Chimma is an Okirika seller. He lost his shop to a demolition exercise in Yaba recently. But luck was on his side as he managed to save his wares.

Left with no money to secure another shop, he resorted to evening markets. At the popular Cele Express bus stop along Lagos-Apapa-Oworonsoki highway.

Right under the pedestrian bridge, Chima, along with tens of other traders shade their wares – a variety of second hand fashion items heaped in portions on the floor.

He told Bounce News that evening market provides him the reprieve that he needs after counting his losses to state authorities.

“Things have been rough,” he said, “but this is better than nothing”.

“There is no way you can compare here to what I used to make in my shop. This market is an evening market and lasts only a few hours. But by the grace of God we still make some money,” he added.

Faced with the task of keeping the environment clean and turning Lagos into a mega-city, the state government had embarked on a series of urban renewal programmes.

These initiatives have outlawed street trading and destroyed several shanty unstructured markets across the state.

                                 *Photo of the recently demolished Sabo Market in Ikorodu area of Lagos

But that drive has spurned a thriving evening markets across the city. Bounce News' investigation revealed that major public spots in the city like CMS, Mile 2, Ojuelegba, Ojota, Orile, Oshodi and Cele Express; where the government task force are stationed during the day to forestall any trading activity, almost always turn into a beehive of activity from 5PM.

“Government is our major problem. They cannot allow us to sell here in the day time. That is why this market opens only from 5PM,” said Chima who was quoted earlier.

Bounce News monitored the Cele Express evening marketplace. During the day time, under the pedestrian bridge that houses the market, was deserted except for a few pedestrians loitering around. But as evening approached, the traders arrived unpacking hefty bales of Okirika. It was not long, the market boomed.

But it is not without its challenges. Another Okirika trader, Onyema Chukwu told Bounce News that it is difficult doing business there because the unofficial trade attracts unofficial levies from the Agberos.

According to Onyema, the government’s task force does not just look away after it is 5PM. He alleged that the area boys have to “settle” the government officials who take off their uniforms but wear muftis and hang around to collect their 'settlement'.

So, it's a food chain - traders settle agberos, agberos settle government officials and no one raises an alarm. No receipts just a firm handshake.

"If I had an option, I would not be here. First of all, before you get a space here, you have to pay between 25 and 30,000 naira for 30 centimetre space.

"And then, every day you will have to pay money. For instance, from Monday to Wednesday, we pay 300 Naira. From Thursday to Saturday, we pay 500 Naira and on Sundays, we pay 350 Naira".

"That is not all. Some days, they will just come and say we should pay 1,000 naira or even more.

"At the end, what we pay here, about 10,000 Naira a month, is much more than the amount someone would pay in a shop. But the problem is  that even if you rent a shop, you are not sure government would not go and destroy it the next day,” Onyema lamented. 

The dilemma expressed by these traders and the huge amount of uncertainty written on their faces leaves one wondering about the government's decision to build and develop the city but not the people who will manage the city.