Giv­ing Ikeja Com­puter Vil­lage a Facelift

Last week’s visit by the Ex­ec­u­tive Vice Chair­man of the Nige­rian Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion, Prof. Umar Garba Dan­batta to Ikeja Com­puter Vil­lage, was an eye­opener, writes Emma Okonji

THISDAY - - BUSINESS WORLD | ANALYSIS -

The re­cent visit of the Ex­ec­u­tive Vice Chair­man of the Nige­rian Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion (NCC), Prof. Umar Garba Dan­batta to the com­puter vil­lage mar­ket lo­cated in Otigba quar­ters in Ikeja, La­gos, is very sig­nif­i­cant.

Al­though Dan­batta has of­fi­cially vis­ited La­gos, the com­mer­cial nerve of Nige­ria many times, he has not been of­fi­cially in­vited to the com­puter vil­lage mar­ket un­til last week, when the Chair­man of Com­puter and Al­lied Prod­ucts Deal­ers As­so­ci­a­tion of Nige­ria (CAPDAN), Mr. Ojikutu Ahmed Adeniyi, in­vited the NCC boss and his man­age­ment team to the com­puter mar­ket.

The in­vi­ta­tion might not be un­con­nected with sev­eral failed at­tempts by the La­gos State gov­ern­ment to re­lo­cate the mar­ket to Katan­gowa, a sub­urb of La­gos in Okeodo Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Area of the state. The new lo­ca­tion is be­lieved to be more spa­cious to speed up the process of trans­form­ing the com­puter mar­ket into a tech­nol­ogy hub for West Africa and Nige­ria’s Sil­i­con Val­ley, just like what is ob­tain­able at the Sil­i­con Val­ley in the United States and Ban­ga­lore in In­dia.

Dan­batta, who was con­ducted round the com­puter mar­ket, was vir­tu­ally amazed at the in­ge­nu­ity of the traders in de­vel­op­ing com­puter hard­ware and soft­ware in an un­guided but suc­cess­ful man­ner.

Moved by his first time ex­pe­ri­ence of the mar­ket, Dan­batta of­fered to open dis­cus­sions with the NCC con­trolled Dig­i­tal Bridge In­sti­tute (DBI) lo­cated in La­gos, Abuja, Enugu, Port Har­court and Kano, where the traders could be fur­ther trained and de­vel­oped in such a way that they be­come skill­ful with mas­tery in branded com­puter man­u­fac­tur­ing and as­sem­blage. They would be trained in ar­eas in­clud­ing writ­ing of soft­ware codes for the de­vel­op­ment of soft­ware so­lu­tions that will ad­dress so­ci­etal chal­lenges, de­signed to boost the much needed dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion of the Nige­rian economy.

NCC’s visit The visit of Dan­batta and the NCC man­age­ment team, elicited joy among the traders who ap­peared open to dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion, but not with­out the sup­port of gov­ern­ment. Apart from the La­gos chap­ter of CAPDAN, var­i­ous chap­ters from Enugu, Kano, Uyo and chap­ters from other state cap­i­tals, were on ground to wel­come Dan­batta and the NCC team in a most colour­ful way that brought the mar­ket to a stand­still through­out the one-day visit.

The NCC team was re­ceived at the CAPDAN Sec­re­tariat, where Dan­batta ad­dressed rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the mar­ket traders from var­i­ous chap­ters across the coun­try, be­fore be­ing con­ducted round the mar­ket by the CAPDAN team.

One of the re­quests by CAPDAN to the NCC dur­ing the visit, was for NCC to as­sist in the up­grad­ing of the com­puter vil­lage mar­ket into a tech­nol­ogy hub, where peo­ple will be trained on lo­cal man­u­fac­tur­ing of com­puter and al­lied prod­ucts.

The essence of the train­ing, ac­cord­ing to CAPDAN, is to build up ca­pac­ity in a knowl­edge-based economy that will boost lo­cal man­u­fac­tur­ing and re­duce cap­i­tal flight through the im­por­ta­tion of for­eign tech­nol­ogy prod­ucts.

The CAPDAN chair­man said there was need for col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween NCC and CAPDAN to train young and tal­ented traders at the Dig­i­tal Bridge In­sti­tute (DBI) that is cur­rently be­ing man­aged by NCC across the coun­try.

Pleased with the re­quest, Dan­batta wel­comed the idea and promised to col­lab­o­rate with CAPDAN to up­grade the La­gos Com­puter Vil­lage to tech­nol­ogy hub, that will ac­com­mo­date tech­nol­ogy in­cu­ba­tion and de­vel­op­ment, geared to­wards grow­ing indige­nous tech­nol­ogy that will ad­dress na­tional and global needs.

“NCC should es­tab­lish an In­for­ma­tion and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Tech­nol­ogy (ICT) hub for com­puter vil­lage traders, a replica of what is ob­tain­able at Sil­i­con Val­ley in the US and In­dia’s Ban­ga­lore, to en­hance the de­vel­op­ment of mo­bile hard­ware tech­ni­cians in the ar­eas of phone as­sem­blage, phone di­ag­no­sis, trans­mis­sion, cell site con­nec­tion, call cen­tre op­er­a­tions, among oth­ers,” Adeniyi said.

Ac­cord­ing to him, the com­puter vil­lage mar­ket has tal­ented young traders who could be trained to be­gin man­u­fac­tur­ing and dis­tri­bu­tion of tech­nol­ogy so­lu­tions that will ad­dress so­ci­etal needs. He said if achieved, the is­sue of fak­ing prod­ucts by Nige­ri­ans, would dras­ti­cally re­duce and Nige­ria would ex­pe­ri­ence a surge in gen­uine home­grown tech­nol­ogy man­u­fac­tur­ing prod­ucts. The CAPDAN leader also called on NCC to in­clude its mem­bers in the com­mis­sion work study groups of some ini­tia­tives.

Ex­press­ing his de­light for the con­tri­bu­tion of ICT to the coun­try’s gross do­mes­tic prod­uct (GDP), Dan­batta as­sured CAPDAN of the will­ing­ness of NCC to as­sist its mem­bers in the ar­eas of train­ing and ca­pac­ity build­ing. He said the DBI would re­main open for col­lab­o­ra­tion and train­ing.

Failed re­lo­ca­tion of the Mar­ket Based on per­ceived con­ges­tion of the Ikeja Dan­batta of­fered to open dis­cus­sions with the NCC con­trolled Dig­i­tal Bridge In­sti­tute (DBI) lo­cated in La­gos, Abuja, Enugu, Port Har­court and Kano, where the traders could be fur­ther trained and de­vel­oped in such a way that they be­come skill­ful with mas­tery in branded com­puter man­u­fac­tur­ing and as­sem­blage com­puter vil­lage mar­ket, cou­pled with the need to dig­i­tally trans­form the mar­ket into a tech­nol­ogy hub, the La­gos State gov­ern­ment had tried sev­er­ally to re­lo­cate the mar­ket with­out suc­cess.

Each year, the La­gos State gov­ern­ment will come with re­newed threats to re­lo­cate the mar­ket. Al­though the traders are wor­ried about the un­end­ing plan by La­gos State gov­ern­ment to re­lo­cate the mar­ket, they are, how­ever, be­gin­ning to feel that the La­gos gov­ern­ment is play­ing pol­i­tics with the re­lo­ca­tion threat, hav­ing made sev­eral failed at­tempts to re­lo­cate the mar­ket since 2004.

Some of the CAPDAN traders, who spoke to THISDAY, said they were al­ready look­ing else­where to seek col­lab­o­ra­tion for the per­sonal de­vel­op­ment of traders in the mar­ket, while the state gov­ern­ment is still con­sid­er­ing how and when to re­lo­cate the mar­ket. Some of the traders have ar­gued that the best thing gov­ern­ment could do for the traders is to trans­form the cur­rent com­puter mar­ket into a tech­nol­ogy hub and cre­ate branches in other lo­ca­tions, in­stead of out­right re­lo­ca­tion plan that has never worked.

A for­mer gov­er­nor, Bola Ahmed Tin­ubu, who first ini­ti­ated the re­lo­ca­tion move in 2004, had planned to re­lo­cate the traders to a per­ma­nent site in Katan­gowa, cit­ing con­ges­tion at its cur­rent lo­ca­tion as rea­son for the re­lo­ca­tion plan. He could not achieve the plan be­fore hand­ing over gov­ern­ment to his suc­ces­sor, Ba­batunde Fashola, who also made some at­tempts to re­lo­cate the mar­ket, but could not also. Fashola’s suc­ces­sor, Gov­er­nor Ak­in­wunmi Am­bode, few months ago, also made his own at­tempt to re­lo­cate the mar­ket.

The State Com­mis­sioner for Phys­i­cal Plan­ning and Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment, Wa­siu Ani­fowoshe, who dis­closed the re­lo­ca­tion plan of Gov­er­nor Am­bode, told the lead­er­ship of CAPDAN re­cently that the state was de­ter­mined to re­lo­cate the mar­ket, but was yet to fix any date to that ef­fect.

The As­sis­tant Pub­lic Re­la­tions Of­fi­cer of CAPDAN, Mr. Pres­ley Ibadin, who spoke with THISDAY on the lat­est de­vel­op­ment, said the La­gos State gov­ern­ment was bent on re­lo­cat­ing the mar­ket, but promised it would carry along the lead­er­ship of the traders in its re­lo­ca­tion plan.

CAPDAN’s move Dis­turbed by the state gov­ern­ment un­end­ing threat to re­lo­cate the com­puter mar­ket, CAPDAN, had in the past, ap­proached the La­gos State gov­ern­ment for as­sis­tance to en­able it be­gin con­struc­tion work on the per­ma­nent site, but could not get gov­ern­ment sup­port.

The traders, how­ever, de­cided to de­velop the new area them­selves through CAPDAN self­fi­nanced project. But they met some chal­lenges of land own­er­ship tus­sle, which forced them to aban­don the project after in­vest­ing huge sum of money in it the project.

After sev­eral failed at­tempts on the part of the La­gos State gov­ern­ment, cou­pled with the stiff re­sis­tance faced by the traders when they wanted to com­mence the re­lo­ca­tion plan them­selves, the traders de­cided to re­main in the con­gested Ikeja Com­puter Vil­lage mar­ket, and look else­where for col­lab­o­ra­tion that will en­hance self de­vel­op­ment, hence the move to in­vite the NCC team, THISDAY gath­ered.

His­tory of com­puter vil­lage The Ikeja Com­puter Vil­lage Mar­ket started in the early 70s with the gath­er­ing of few traders in the then res­i­den­tial area called Otigba Vil­lage. As the mar­ket grew over the years, and at­tracted more traders and buy­ers who were deal­ing mainly on com­puter and its ac­ces­sories and later ex­tended to mo­bile phones and their ac­ces­sories, the traders au­to­mat­i­cally con­verted the res­i­den­tial area to a full mar­ket and named it Ikeja Com­puter Vil­lage mar­ket.

The mar­ket be­came a bee­hive of ac­tiv­i­ties, at­tract­ing more buy­ers and sell­ers, to the ex­tent that the lim­ited space be­came choked up and move­ment of buy­ers within the mar­ket be­came dif­fi­cult as a re­sult of body fric­tion ex­pe­ri­enced dur­ing move­ment of per­sons who vis­ited the mar­ket. Park­ing space for cars be­came a night­mare, as cars could not be driven into the mar­ket for want of space.

It was for this and other rea­sons that the La­gos State gov­ern­ment saw the need to re­lo­cate the mar­ket and fur­ther de­velop into a dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy hub, but the com­mit­ment to re­lo­cate the mar­ket has re­mained a mi­rage.

Traders and cus­tomers strug­gling for space at Ikeja Com­puter Vil­lage

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