Lagos State is unique in many ways. It is the most populous state of Nigeria and is the leading non oil sector contributor to the country’s Gross Domestic product (GDP). In 2006, it contributed 30% of the nation’s GDP, consumed more than 60% of its energy, paid 65% of its value Added Tax (VAT), and accounted for 90% of Nigeria’s foreign trade and 70% of all industrial investments. With three lighter terminals and two ports, Lagos generates 50% of Nigeria’s port revenue and the Murtala Mohammed Airport, Ikeja, Lagos, is the major hub for aviation within West Africa, and between the region and Europe.
Lagos State is indeed blessed by its position as Nigeria’s financial, commercial and industrial nerve centre with over 2,000 manufacturing industries and over 200 financial institutions. The State alone harbours about 60 per cent of the Federation’s total industrial investments and foreign trade while also attracting 65 per cent of Nigeria’s commercial activities. It accounts for more than 40 per cent of all labour emoluments paid in the country.
Aside all these empirical indices, Lagos is equally unique in terms of its numerous iconic markets. All across the metropolis, especially in places such as Ketu, Mile 2, Mile 12, Oshodi, Ikeja, Ojota, Jankara, Yaba, Balogun, and Oyingbo among others, there are massive markets where varied trading activities take place. Oyingbo market, in particular, has a chequered history. What is today an ultramodern market complex in Oyingbo, a metropolitan city in Ebute Metta area of Lagos State is one of the oldest and busiest markets in Lagos. The saying thatOja Oyingbo ko mo p’enikan o wa (Oyingbo Market does not recognize the absence of anyone) is a tribute to its sheer size, patronage and prominence among markets in the country.
The market was traditionally established by the Aworis who inhabited the southern and central part of the Lagos Mainland in the remote past before the British Establishment in 1851. It used to be a depot for agricultural produces from across the country. But then, rapid socio-economic development around Ebute-Metta, Oyingbo and the Lagos Mainland had impacted hugely on the evolvement of the market, thereby making it to grow bigger not only in size but also in the variety of goods available within the its confine. In one instance, in the 1930s, traders around Apapa road were moved to the current location to further boost the size of the market and expand the array of available goods to include meat and livestock. As a major commercial centre, the market attracted patronage from across Nigeria and beyond.
According to Otunba Augustus Payne’s “Principal Almenack and Dairy for 1886” , the Oyingbo market which held every four days was a trade fare established by Aworis as a disposal centre for their surplus produce and craft and it served the inhabitants of the sparsely clustered hamlets (village communities) which spread on the littoral of Lagos. However, when the Egbas attacked the communities in the 1830s in search of direct outlet to the coast, many of the communities abandoned their land and sought refuge on Lagos Island.
The word “Oyingbo” is a perversion of the Yoruba phrase “Eyin Gbo” which itself is a contracted form of “Eyin Gbongbo”. “Eyin” means “behind” while “Gbongbo” means “huge tree root”. Hence, the name “Oyingbo Market” was used to describe where the market was situated. It was claimed that there was a big tree with enormous roots and it was behind the tree that trading activities were carried out.
Oyingbo Market in the early days was situated near a small hamlet known as “Ebute M’ata” now called “Ebute-Metta”. According to Iwe Irohin Eko of 16thFebrauary, 1889, “Ebute M’ata” which full pronunciation is “EbuteImu-Ata” is from the Awori language. Among the many meanings of “Imu” in Awori is “a place where something is situated” while “Ebute” means “wharf”. Thus, “Ebute Imu-Ata” or Ebute- M’ata” actually means “the wharf where Atta tree is situated”.
History has it that a big Atta tree was formerly situated at the wharf (Ebute) on the Mainland right opposite the Ota village before it decomposed and fell down. However, with the many and different tribes that make up the population of Lagos and by whom the original settlers were so rapidly overwhelmed, it is not a surprise that the spelling, pronunciation and meaning of the word was perverted to “Ebute-Metta”.
It is pertinent to mention that at various times, the running of Oyingbo Market had been under different Local Government Authorities. In 1918 its management was under the Market Department of Lagos Town Council which later metamorphosed in 1963 to the Lagos City Council. Between 1976 and 1977, the responsibility of running the market fell on the Lagos Mainland Local Government and it has remained so till date, despite the carving out of Surulere Local Government from the Lagos Mainland Local Government.
However, due to the dilapidated structures, failed facilities occasioned by extensive neglect of needed maintenance which usually resulted in the flooding of the market and the destruction of the wares of the traders and an immediate need for space expansion, the old Oyingbo Market was demolished by the Chairman of Mainland Local Government, Mr Adetayo Oyemade on the 17th August, 1991 for reconstruction, but he could not award the contract for the reconstruction before leaving office. Another attempt was made in November 1991 during the Otedola’s Administration with late Bashorun M.K.O. Abiola as the Chairman of the Fund Raising Committee. For a combination of factors, this effort equally brought limited success.
In 2000, a joint venture was put in place between the Local Government and private financiers. Under the arrangement, the Local Government was to donate the land as equity participation while the private partners will finance the project. The Lagos State Government finally took over the project and the construction of the ultramodern Oyingbo market was finally completed and commissioned on Sunday, 15th March, 2015.
The new ultramodern Oyingbo market complex is a four-storey building built on a 504 square meters land with about 150-car capacity parking lot on the ground floor, 622 open shops, 102 lockup shops, 49 open offices, 134 toilets, six exit gates, water treatment plant, sewage and refuse treatment plants, fire safety gadgets, 1,000KVA transformers among others.
Today, Oyingbo Market has become a one –stop-shop for all kinds of items and products. Perhaps, more importantly, through the diverse economic activities that go on in the market, thousands of people can boast of a consistent source of livelihood. This, indeed, is a major path to prosperity.
Onayele is Director General, Lagos State Records and Achieves Bureau, Magodo GRA, Lagos