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The ban on street trading

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PHOTO: thengmag.com

PHOTO: thengmag.com

In an abode of at least 20 million residents, the debate, even controversy, generated by the ongoing clampdown on street trading and hawking in Lagos State by the authorities should not be any surprise. But the law is the law. And decency, even respect for human dignity, bears out this particular law. There is nothing worthy of consideration, therefore, outside its enforcement by the government and compliance by the people.

The opposition to the law may seem understandable given that street trading has for decades become part of the life of the residents, taking on the garb of a culture even.

But what is indecent is simply so. Whatever blights human dignity cannot be justified on any altar.

The challenge, however, is for the Lagos State authorities to balance its redevelopment programme with the economic wellbeing of the people, especially, those whose livelihood depends on informal trading.

For the records, restriction on street trading is not new in Lagos. As a matter of fact, the Lagos State Street Trading and Illegal Market Prohibition Law has been there since 2003 without enforcement, a situation which created room for street trading to flourish across the state. The creation of the Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI) specifically charged to enforce the law by arresting offenders and confiscating their wares didn’t achieve much of the desired objective.

As a matter of fact, trouble erupted the other week after a street hawker was crushed by a Bus Rapid Transfer (BRT) bus, while attempting to run away from officials of KAI in the Maryland area of Lagos Mainland. The death of that female hawker triggered violence, leading to the destruction of several BRT buses and several other property.

Reacting to the incident, Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, said the renewed enforcement was in line with Section One of the Law prohibiting street trading. Ambode, however, sympthised with the family of the deceased hawker and it is hoped that the State would lend a helping hand to the family of the deceased.

Ambode’s words were commendable in the empathy they conveyed: “It is not in our DNA to allow someone to just die by road accident or in the way it happened in respect of the incident”.

Sadly too, over 49 buses were destroyed, which would cost hundreds of millions to put back to work in a highly populated state and one in which commuters need them urgently.

The ugly incident, he noted, prompted the state executive council to resolve to enforce the law, which makes both hawkers and buyers liable of the offence. A clause in the law prescribes N90,000 or six months jail term for offenders.

The governor said his administration has appropriately concluded plans to roll out a campaign to warn motorists and hawkers of the restrictions and the penalty for defaulters.

It needs to be acknowledged that street trading is a thorny issue across the length and breadth of Nigeria. In all the urban and semi-urban centres, thousands of traders display all sorts of wares on the streets and highways. Hawkers, including minors risk their lives in traffic selling practically everything available in the market.

In the case of Lagos, it is noteworthy that street trading is so commonplace that most highways are blocked. Despite the fact that the Law was enacted since 2003, nothing was practically done about it with regard to enforcement until about 2011, when the Babatunde Fashola administration took the decisive action to bulldoze thousands of illegal stalls that blocked Oshodi area, a major hub of hawkers, and extended the same to other parts of Lagos metropolis. That, for the first time, gave Lagosians a breathing space they never had for decades

Even though Lagos, for decades, has been referred as a “jungle city” as a result of mounting or insurmountable disorder, now is the time for the people to appreciate that there is a change of attitude and the authorities are committed to giving Lagos a new image.

Lawlessness is a recipe for violence and insecurity. The law promotes human dignity and hygiene, which is for the common good.
Nonetheless, a challenge before the Lagos State Government is to erase an impression that it is elitist and only out to inflict pain on the teeming population of the poor.

This brings all down to the imperative of planning and good governance. Building highways, roads and sidewalks as well as shops and other facilities in appropriate areas is a planning issue the state must address urgently. A state or city like Lagos should be properly planned with provisions made for all necessary environmental, commercial and recreational infrastructure.

And adequate investment should be made on public enlightenment with a view to educating the people on a law which, whether they like it or not, is largely aimed at improving their collective and individual dignity.


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8 Comments
  • BENBELLA

    Poor Planning and poverty , why would they allowed under age children selling on the road with dangerous drivers , thats my concern, God help Nigeria

  • young Eduke

    Gov. Ambode is my man. I just like him. However, please help the poor people of your state. Give them better options on how to do this. I know you mean well. God bless you.

  • emmanuel kalu

    it is a very good law. it not only provide some relief for motorist, but it is a safety issue for the hawkers. The goal of the government is to provide affordable shops for this people. Now if the government can deal with illegal parking that blocks most major road.

  • Abimax

    Unfortunately, most African leaders either take the second step before the first or they apply curative measures rather than preventive measure.
    A sensible government will first of all provide alternative before clamping down on street traders. What happens to the millions of teeming Nigerians that depend on hawking for livelihood, what about the buyers them selves. Lagosians spend hours on traffic on Lagos roads and once you are dehydrated, the only people that come to your rescue are these so-called hawkers.

    Let’s hope for the better of Lagos state and Nigeria as a whole.

    I am just imaging the millions of naira that will go into the campaign against street trading in the name of adverts and all the sensitization government is talking about. This will not build any stall or make altanative to street trading.

    His bless naija

  • gogolagos

    IT SEEMS TO BE A WICKED LAW BUT WHEN YOU LOOK AT OTHER SIDE OF IT YOU FINDOUT THAT IT MAKES SENSE. FIRST, IT WILL SAVE LIFE OF MANY KAWKERS BECAUSE EVERYDAY MANY OF THEM ARE BEING KNOCKED DOWN ACCINDENTLY BY CARS. SECOND, hygiene, there is no hygiene in preserving their products on sale. third, manly are children that should be at school, that is so called children labor. government must start somewhere to clean the country from all sort of do as you like behavior.

  • Dike Victor

    All communities shld start taken datas of pple living in that community , with all necessary informations about that person. In this form govt will be able to know pple who are trading , employed , unemployed , everything about that person . Thro this medium you can solve a lot of problems of the people and law and order will reign . But when you don’t data , then is problem . Everyone has to go thro it If you are residence in Lagos . Community by community ! If u don’t go thro this , you be out of Lagos or go for jail becos it will be a crime when you don’t data ! From here Lagos govt will know how to help his pple !

  • Dike Victor

    Very good to stop street trading on the street . But with govt to immediate address provision for unemployment and start giving there pple living supports .Community data of individuals should start immediately with Lagos ID cards . Compulsory for anyone living lagos communities to go thro . Anywhere you go the first thing is that ID without it , then problem!

  • Nedu Akie

    Negetive and anti people law.
    Simple, you want to stop street hawking, just stop Lagos holdups… and street hawking will go.