In this piece, ANTHONY ADA ABRAHAM writes on how small businesses are suffering from demolition at the time of economic recession.
Last week, a part of the shopping complex that housed Nuli Juice and Nuts in Ikoyi, Lagos was pulled down by government agents. The tenants said the demolition was done without prior warning, while the government claimed their landlord was warned about the illegal structures, it was a story that trended throughout the week.
In Abuja on Tuesday, at about 4 pm, a call was put through to a young employer of labour known as Chloe’s Cupcake Heaven located at Ademola Adetokunbo Crescent Wuse II, that the building housing her business which has been there for the past five-years, would be demolished within 24 hours.
The new trend has, in recent times, become worrisome in view of the fact that the country is facing a serious economic meltdown occasioned by the economic recession with the government urging the youths to look for alternative job opportunities in order to be gainfully employed.
It was tears and confusion at the premises of Chloe’s Cupcake Heaven for all efforts to reach the authorities to prevent the demolition from taking place or to ask for more time to look for an alternative place, proved difficult as those responsible said the order was from above.
Speaking with the affected lady, Muna Okam, who said she has employed over 60 people because of the business which started in her kitchen, she further noted that “Yesterday, I got a call about the demolition at about 4 pm and this morning, they are already demolishing at other parts of the town, Banex to be precise, so we are trying to pack our things. We have been here for the past five-years, and nobody has said we are doing anything wrong.”
“The painful thing is that this business employs about 60 people. The landlord has been doing his best to see what he can to do about it. We just got a call from them that we should start removing our things.”
“This is unfair because as a small business, we are literally trying to keep our head above water. And Nigeria is in recession. This is not what we need and even if they want to demolish, how about giving us adequate notice so we can make alternative plans?”
“This small business that I started from my kitchen grew over the years. Where are those that I’m employing going to get jobs when there are no jobs and people are going hungry every day, with the crime rate in the FCT increasing day by day?” She asked in tears.
As this was going on, some young entrepreneurs who came together to show their disgust about the development reacted to the demolishing going on in Wuse II, frowning at the Nigerian government who they say should put up policies that would encourage entrepreneurs, stating that in America and Europe where Nigeria draws inspiration from, SMEs are the backbone of their economy and such destruction can never take place.
Wanger Ayu, is an Abuja-based entrepreneur whose office was demolished a year ago. She narrates her ordeal in the hands of the demolishers who put a stop to her business and source of lively hood. “I got a place, I rented it as a semi-permanent structure and the landlord assured that he had all the permits and licences, showing me documents.”
“Then I signed the contract, paid the rent, spent so much money on renovation and in less than two months after I turned in to work, I saw that there where bulldozers there, no notice given at all and they brought it down in my presence. I’m still in pains because I haven’t recovered from the loss since then. Those I employed where disengaged and left to do nothing just because of what they believe was right. Well it’s something that I have experienced and so with the recent situation of Nuli Juice in Lagos, and seeing these, we had to come together to condemn this act because even if you are deciding that a building is in contravention, how about giving adequate notice and giving the business owner time to relocate the business because we are employers of labour?”
If you say there is something we could do about it, then give us a payment plan. This building has been here for five years, not one issue, not one notice. Someone came in overnight and said that the place would be demolished. So how is it that overnight you are marking it for demolition with less than 24hrs notice?” She explained, adding that “enough is enough…as small business owners and as women in the society, we are the ones who employ people, they are not creating jobs and the economy is getting worse. This is not even the time for it, how is this a priority for the government? I want to ask the person in charge what his direct benefit is. You lose your tax. They are not even supporting so why destroy the small businesses? What message are they trying to send?” She asked.
She further advised that when issues like this come up, the best thing to do is to give the business owners opportunity to see if the land they are renting has issues so that they would know how it can be rectified.
Another young entrepreneur, Angel Adelaja said that there is nobody who would know his or her rented place has problems and would fold his or her hands. “The truth is that most business owners are willing to comply with the laws, but we don’t know what they are because the government changes every day. One will come up and say this is what I want and when another takes over the mantle of leadership, he says it is illegal business. We are the victims and they are the ones in negligence.
I have a friend that his building is down the road, his house and office was marked and he has just finished paying N1.8 million for the commercial sum, from residence to commercial. When the government was saying they want small businesses popping up, they didn’t say they would destroy our businesses, they said they will give us the ability to spread so we could also be employers of labour. How is this situation even helping those who want to employ?” She asked.
Also showing her disgust concerning the situation, another young entrepreneur, Samaiah Oyekan Ahmed explained that even though the federal and state governments have promised to create jobs for the people, it is also wise to support small businesses to thrive.
“It seems, this government doesn’t want small businesses, they want to create more jobs. You don’t create more jobs by killing small businesses, and it’s the wrong timing, the wrong economy.”
“We want to know what the laws are, transparency and freedom of information. Secondly, in implementing, they need to make that in their own ends, not doing things to put other people in suffering. Because it looks like they are evil doers. If they don’t tell us what to do and if we don’t ask, they don’t have our best interests at heart.”
“There is nothing on their website that shows what to do and not to do. We didn’t elect the president to demolish small businesses and put families in jeopardy. This isn’t the time to frustrate small businesses when businesses are folding up. The Nigerian Government should put up a deliberate policy to encourage entrepreneurs.
In America and Europe where we take inspirations from, SMEs are the backbone of their economy, so why destroy the ones you have in the name of illegal structures. Why not come up with a plan to see how it could also benefit people?” She concluded.