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
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