• Thursday, July 18, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Computer Village relocation stalls as new site nowhere in sight

Computer Village relocation stalls as new site nowhere in sight

Lagos State’s plan to relocate Computer Village may not materialise in the short- or medium-term due to the stalled development of the proposed new site.

Initially announced in 2017, the relocation has failed to materialise, and the renewed 2024 plan appears unlikely to change the current situation.

The government aims to move the market from its current residential location in Ikeja to an ICT village in Katangowa, Abule-Egba.

“Where the Computer Village is located is, was, and will continue by law to be a residential area, hence we must follow the law. Katangowa is the area designated by the Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development, particularly the Office of Physical Planning,” said Olajide Babatunde, special adviser to the governor on Electronic Geographic Information System and Urban Development in February 2024.

Read also: Six charts revealing computer developers’ use of AI

According to the special adviser, the initial relocation plans faced challenges, which are now being addressed.

However, a BusinessDay visit to the proposed site in early 2024 revealed bare land with little or no development ongoing. “The government came to observe some things there last week. They should bring the computer village now. We are waiting,” one trader said.

Another trader, Frank Charles, commented, “Bringing Computer Village here will bring enlightenment. People will see our businesses too, and so it will bring more patronage. But the government keeps proposing without action.”

Another BusinessDay visit to the proposed site on July 5, 2024, revealed that the government had stationed people there to oversee development. The site now has a town planning office with staff at the site.

An official claimed there would be progress on the project this year. The official said, “The government is serious about this thing. People resume here Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to see how the development is coming.

“There’s a proposed gate site, car park plan and then the business arena. Ikeja, as you see, is too crowded. No planning, nothing. Moreover, it was made to be a residential area, not a market.”

Olatunbosun Alake, the commissioner for science, innovation and technology, highlighted that the new location is not yet ready. “If you move to a market, you will need to have the facilities and infrastructure. But rest assured there will be enough notice, and it will not be a sudden move once the location is ready,” he stated.

Ifeanyi Akubue, president of the Phone and Allied Product Dealers Association of Nigeria, told BusinessDay, “We have not heard anything, but the government has told us that Computer Village must be relocated to Katangowa. We are waiting to know how they are going to do it.”

In 2021, Bridgeways Global Projects Limited, the contractor in charge of the new Computer Village, announced that the first phase of the new ICT market would be completed in 24 months.

Read also: Lagos eyes fresh start for Computer Village with relocation to Abule Egba

In 2024, Olajide Babatunde, earlier quoted, revealed that Lagos had terminated the contract with Bridgeways Limited.

Babatunde said, “The contract with the Kantagowa Market Project consultant, Bridgeway Global Project Limited, has since been terminated over two years ago due to non-performance of the contractor on the agreement reached with him…”

Computer Village is the most prominent phone hub in Nigeria, contributing about N300 billion annually to the economy, according to Omobola Johnson, former minister of information and communications technology. Located in the heart of the city, Computer Village is home to about 3,000 information technology small and medium enterprises. A Stears Business report estimates that about N1.5 billion is generated daily, explaining the state’s interest in relocating the market to a larger area.

While the traders at the proposed site are enthusiastic, many are less optimistic.

“I do not like the idea. This place has been here for long, and we are used to the system here. I got here in 2010 and have built a customer base here. Many people know my store, so I will need to build a new customer base. The cost of shipping these items will increase with the distance,” said Kalu Uche, a trader at the Computer Village.

Some traders believe the move will weed out fraudulent actors who will not find a place in the new market. Structured businesses like SLOT, FINET, and 3C HUB did not respond to BusinessDay’s request for comment.

Alake, earlier quoted, explained that the government has a long-term vision for the new Computer Village, focusing on backward integration and actual manufacturing. He said, “The goal is to create an ecosystem that supports parts, talents and infrastructure for backward integration.”

Alake, who spoke to BusinessDay on the sidelines of the recently concluded Africa Technology Expo 2024 event, noted that the state is also seeking collaboration with the federal government.

Read also: National Board for Technical Education unbundles HND Computer Science programme

“I spoke to Minister Bosun a while ago. I pitched this backward integration, but we are yet to finalise the actual structure.”

The commissioner highlighted that the move is not under his ministry but under the Ministry of Physical Planning. He, however, noted that the relocation plan now involves multiple ministries working together for a holistic approach.

According to Akubue, earlier quoted, traders from the current site were once optimistic about the move. “The project has been ongoing for a while. There was a time when traders were ready to move, but the government’s inability has waned this enthusiasm,” he added.