Mr Ahmad Lawal is the founder and Chief Executive of Hairsense Unisex Salon, one of the businesses at Palms Mall, Ilorin, Kwara State looted by hoodlums, following the #EndSARS protests. He tells TUNDE OYEKOLA how he watched helplessly as the mall was destroyed
How did you get information that your shop had been vandalised?
I was at home when a phone call came in that my shop had been broken into by the hoodlums. I learnt that the mall had been attacked and that all the shops were vandalised and that the equipment and goods had been stolen. So, I dressed up and went to the mall because I learnt that the security had succeeded in chasing them away. I went there to see the extent of the damage and if we could still be able to salvage some of the materials in the shop. On getting there, I met some soldiers who had already chased out the miscreants. One of the soldiers received a call from whosoever, and they just left the place. We saw the hoodlums coming back. They were in their thousands. Other shop owners and I had to run for dear life; we climbed the rooftop of a building close to the mall and that was where we watched them looting our shops. When they had entered the mall, those of us who were hidden also came down and pretended as if we were part of them. There were more than 2,000 of them. While they were looting the shops, they also vandalised my car because I couldn’t remove my car immediately the soldiers left.
What time would you normally close for business?
We used to operate between 9am and 9pm on a daily basis but that day, we were told to close early and we locked our shops by 6pm.
Were you able to salvage anything from your shop since you were around when it was being looted?
Not at all, we were just watching them.
What equipment did you lose to looters and vandals?
Our shop is a large shop, unlike the average barbershop. It is about 250 square metres: We have 20 barbers – with those who do female hair and some who do pedicure, nails, etc. We have more than 70 employees. So, when they came, they took everything that was meaningful. We lost chairs, equipment and all the gadgets that we were using.
When did you open your shop at the mall?
I started business at the mall in January 2016.
Is this the first time such a thing would happen?
Yes, this is the first time.
I learnt that this is the second attack in the mall.
Yes, this is the second time, but the first time was not an attack. The first time was when the students union was protesting against xenophobia attacks in South Africa. They did not take anything. They were civilised; they didn’t take anything. They only protested and left. But this time, the miscreants came, damaged the mall and looted the goods there.
How did you feel as you watched the looting?
I didn’t feel anything because this type of thing was not strange to me. I was brought up in the northern part of the country, so I’m used to witnessing riots and things like that. It seemed unreal and it seemed as if I was watching a movie. There was nothing I could do about it. I was just laughing because everything was taken.
Can you quantify what you have lost?
The loss is colossal and if I were to quantify it, it would be between N30m and N50m that I lost. Apart from what they stole from my own shop, they damaged the ceiling, the roof, closed-circuit television cameras, electronics and other gadgets that we were using to promote our businesses. Apart from taking almost everything, they damaged everything that they could not take.
The Kwara State Government has promised to give N500m succour to those whose businesses were affected by the looting. How did you feel about this?
I was the spokesperson for those affected when we visited the governor. We had a meeting with the governor and what I said then and will continue to say is that the mall should be refurbished in good time because if you give people money and there is nowhere to use the money, they will just consume it. What is important for us is that the mall should be back in shape immediately. Secondly, regarding the N500m that the governor announced, they (government) are still working on the modalities and, now, nobody knows whether it is realistic or whether it will be a form of grant or loan. Nobody knows whether what will be given will be enough to help each business to come back or not. As with all governments, this type of thing usually takes time but we are hopeful as it has said this government is different.
Source: The PUNCH