It was celebration galore for the people of Ilupeju Ekiti in Ekiti State last week Friday when they received the state governor, Ayodele Fayose, who was in the town to commission over 100 lock-up shops in the popular Menara Market in Ilupeju, in Oye Local Government Area of the state.
The venue was filled to the brim as people trooped out in their number. They were excited to witness the birth of their modern market that would speed up the development of the local government and put Ilupeju, which is regarded as the biggest in Oye local government back on the map.
Established in 1925, Menara Market, which used to be the largest market for Kolanut and crayfish in the country, had been in a dilapidated state for many years after it was destroyed by flood. In 2014, the executive member s of Ilupeju Ekiti Development Association (IEDA) under the leadership of Mr Femi Babalola organised a 100-million naira fund-raising campaign during the Ilupeju Day celebration in 2014 to rebuild the market and restore its lost glory.
About 45 million naira was said to have been raised at the event and in less than one year, the first phase of the project, which started in January 2016 was completed. For the people of Ilupeju, the construction of the modern market came at the right time as some of them who spoke with Nigerian Tribune revealed that they had long for a modern market in their community and this could not have happened at any other time.
The commissioning started with cultural dance from different groups as they entertained the audience while the people patiently awaited the arrival of the state governor. From one side of the venue to the other, the people could not hide their joy as they beamed with smiles and expressed their appreciation to IEDA for giving their market a facelift.
One of the market women who simply gave her name as Alice said the construction of the modern market was like a dream come true for some of them, especially those who would be trading inside the market. “We are very happy that this is happening at this time. When they started the construction, many people did not believe it would be completed in less than a year. But now that phase one of the project has been completed, we are already looking forward to the phase two.”
While commissioning the market, the state governor, Ayodele Fayose extolled the virtue of the people of Ilupeju and thanked IEDA for putting up such edifice despite the poor state of the economy. “I am proud of what I am seeing here today. The leadership of this community has made me proud and I can tell you that I will continue to support this project. I am happy to have been part of this. I have never seen a community as united and forward-looking as these set of people. This is worth celebrating and I appreciate what you have done here.”
Speaking with Nigerian Tribune about the completion of the project and the inauguration of its phase two, the President of Ilupeju Foundation, Mr Femi Babalola said the market would restore the lost glory of Ilupeju and bring the people of the community together for trade and commerce that they have been known for. According to him, the market had to be demolished and rebuilt in order to give way to the modern market that is capable of making the town the commercial never centre of Ekiti State.
“We came on board in 2014 and one of the things we promised the people was to rebuild this market, But we could not have done that without the support of the local government and the Apeju of Ilupeju, Oba Emmanuel Oniyele. This market was established by the colonial masters in 1925. It used to be the largest market for Cray Fish and Kolanut that people would come from as far Kano State and other parts of the country to buy Kolanuts and Cray Fish. We started the lock up shops in January 2016 and we promised the people that we would complete and commission it. I made sure that every material that was used to construct the new market was sourced for locally to encourage our local builders and engineers.
Now that the foundation of the second phase of the project had been laid by governor Ayodele Fayose the people are already looking forward to its completion even as they urged the leaders of the community not to rest on their oars
Traditional rulers and top government functionaries were also present at the occasion that lasted for more than four hours.