The Federal Government has no intention to sell the Lagos International Trade Fair Complex, the Bureau of Public Enterprises has said.

In a statement made available to our correspondent in Abuja on Tuesday by Head, Public Communications, Amina Othman, the BPE denied the purported sale of the complex. 

However, the privatisation agency said that the Federal Government was in the process of concessioning the complex and had secured the services of transaction adviser in the person of Messrs Feedback Infrastructure Services.

Othman said in the statement, “The attention of BPE has been drawn to the alleged closure of the Lagos International Trade Fair Complex by the Traders’ Associations operating in the Complex and the protest by the said association over the purported sale of the complex.

“For the avoidance of doubt, the bureau states that the Federal Government of Nigeria through the BPE does not intend to sell the complex rather the facility would be concessioned through a competitive transaction process.

“It is for this reason that the government has procured the services of Messrs Feedback Infrastructure Services to advise on the way forward for the proposed concession. It is apt to inform the public that the bureau on Friday, March 1, 2019, met with the entire Traders’ Associations to explain the essence of the planned concession.”

Othman added, “The bureau had on August 23, 2017 placed a caveat emptor in some national newspapers in the country wherein it stated that the lease agreement that was hitherto executed by the FGN in favour of Aulic Nigeria Limited had been validly terminated and possession reverted to the FGN with effect from 23rd day of August 2017.

“Members of the public were therefore warned that ‘any purported allotment, buying, selling, letting, leasing, charging, and subdivision, construction upon or dealings in connection with the said property and parcels of land in any other manner howsoever without the written permission of the FGN represented by the BPE is unlawful, illegal, fraudulent and amounts to trespass’.

“It further warned that any person(s) interfering with the said parcels of land ‘stand to lose their money as the FGN through the BPE will neither honour agreements, contracts or arrangements entered into with person(s) purporting to have authority to transact the property and or parcels of land whether in the manner described or in any other manner whatsoever nor will it reimburse any monies paid in respect of such transaction’.”

According to Othman, the privatisation agency is willing to collaborate with all stakeholders to ensure a smooth and successful completion of the transaction.

Meanwhile, traders at the Lagos International Trade Fair, LSITF, embarked on a peaceful protest, yesterday, to register their displeasure over plans by the Federal Government to concession the market, saying  two existing contracts are yet to expire.

The situation led to the closure of the market in the early hours of yesterday. Traders and companies domiciled in the complex could not gain access until the protest ended.

Earlier, when correspondence visited the complex, there was confusion over the development as some claimed the Federal Government was behind the closure, while others alleged that All Progressives Congress, APC, was conducting a solidarity rally at the market.

Lagos Trade Fair complex Further findings showed that the leadership of the various sections of the market decided to shut the place in protest over what they described as the imminent transfer of ownership when there are existing contracts.

The traders, who were drawn from ASPAMDA, Balogun Business Association, BBA; Mandilas, and African Tyre Village, told correspondence that some parts of the LSTIF were leased out for 50 years while another area was given out for 99 years.

Also speaking to our correspondence, Assistant Secretary, Balogun Business Association, Chief Nwachukwu Maduakor, said a protest letter was handed over to the Executive Director, LISTF, Chief Lucy Ajayi, for onward transmission to the Federal Government.

His words: “We held a peaceful protest to register our disapproval of the move by the Federal Government to concession the market while the ongoing contract is yet to elapse. “This is going to be a continuous protest until the Federal Government drops its interest in our leased property.

Some property are actually on a lease for 50 years, while others were leased for 99 years. The 50 years lease will expire in 28 years.

“We pay land use charge and ground rent yearly through the major markets here. Last year, we decided to go to court because of constant harassment. For now, they haven’t provided us with any documentation of what they want. We are in court but you need to understand that the Federal Government indirectly runs the court.”

Confirming the protest, spokesperson of Lagos State Police Command, Mr Bala Elkana said, the peaceful protest was held yesterday at 8 am.

He said: “The stakeholders in Trade Fair and others held a peaceful demonstration within the premises following reports that the Trade Fair Complex is about to be sold by the Bureau of Public Enterprise not minding that various leases are still subsisting.

“Executive Director of Trade Fair, Mrs. Lucy Ajayi addressed them accordingly and promised to inform the authority about their grievances.”