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Akwa Ibom: Most street traders own shops inside markets

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Hawkers displaying thier wares on the road in Akure, Ondo State capital                          PHOTO: OLUWASEUN AKINGBOYE

Hawkers displaying thier wares on the road in Akure, Ondo State capital PHOTO: OLUWASEUN AKINGBOYE

In Akwa Ibom State, the menace of street trading is not different from other states. The reason for this not far fetched, following the influx of people from Old Cross River State to the state when market space was not enough for the indigenous traders.

So, for Uyo the state capital, which was a local government headquarters, there was that need for market space for these ‘strangers’ and this led to the popular Etuk Street Market by the side of Uyo main market.

The street market was so popular that successive military governments in the state could not ban it. The street linked other major streets within Oron and Aka Roads, but it took government about 20 years after the creation of the state to ban street trading on Etuk Street.

However, the closure of Etuk Street market would not have been possible if not that an incident happened between a Youth Corps member and a meat seller leading to the untimely death of the former hence, the state governor then, Senator Godswill Akpabio, asked for the closure of the Uyo Main Market and Etuk Street market respectively.

Of worthy to note is the fact that, ninety per cent of street markets do not spring up on their own, it must be seen around major markets.

With the closure of Uyo Main and Etuk Street markets, government decided to construct an Annex of Akpan Andem market along Johnson Street off Aka Road within the metropolis.

The situation along Atabong Road in Eket council area, Ikot Oku Ikono, Itam Junction, Urua Tor in Ikot Ekpene among others is not different because street traders in these areas have affected free movement of vehicles and human beings especially on market days.

What sometimes amazes passersby is that, like the Johnson Street market and others, local council officials collect market tolls from these street traders.
In fact, it is because of these fees that most traders on the street embarrass passersby, even when one pleads with them to adjust their wares for you to move over to another street.

In Uyo, the state capital, there has been some kind of running battle between the council and state governments on who has the right to run the street markets. This has led to some unscrupulous local council agents creating avenue for street traders so as to make their own money at the expense of the populace.

Of late, the State Commissioner of Environment and Mineral Resources, Dr. Iniobong Essien has been on the neck of the street traders, as they not only litter the streets, they also create scenes that portray the state in a bad light.

Along Johnson Street by Akpan Market, the traders, mostly women, said they ame from Etuk Street market because they could not afford a market stalls built by government inside the market.

They called on Uyo local council authority to reconstruct Uyo main market, which was demolished eight years ago so that most of them who are unable to acquire shops in the new Akpan Andem market may have a place to stay.

Speaking on the contrary, a male trader who craved anonymity said that most of the street traders have shops inside the market, but have refused to use them.

“The traders are being encouraged by lazy customers who would not want to spend their time to go inside the market to purchase what they want to.

“Most traders who claimed to be fast and clever will not stay inside their shops to sell, but will bring their wares outside and close the road. I personally don’t blame them, I blame the market officials who encourage them by colleting money from them”.

Corroborating, another women accused market officials of encouraging street trading. According to her, most of the officials use their agents to collect tolls instead of cooperating with government to ask the street traders to go into their shops inside the market.

One of the traders along Itam Junction main market, pleaded with government not to contemplate banning street trading as the business has helped them to sustain and maintain their families.

According to her: “Selling on the street is not a good thing to do, but since we do not have space inside the market, there is nothing we can do. Government should not ban street trading unless they will build enough markets for us”.

From Charles Akpeji, Jalingo
Unlike other parts of the country where efforts are being put in place to put an end to street trading, the reverse seems to be the case in Taraba State as trading on the streets, especially on highways, is on the increase.

So worrisome is the fact that majority of the street traders, as observed by The Guardian, are under-aged children who are supposed to be in school.

Apart from the numerous problems which these street traders and hawkers have continued to cause on the highways and streets, some of them have had either one of their legs battered by some reckless drivers, or have lost their wares to passengers.

Some of the drivers who bared their minds to The Guardian, felt sad that government is doing nothing to eradicate street trading and begging.

According to one of the commercial drivers who gave his name as Vincent Asir, “ Before now, there was nothing like street trading or begging in the state, alleging that it was caused by the influx of persons from the neighbouring states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe into the state, following the eruption of Boko Haram insurgency.

Wondering why the state government has not mapped out plans to address the situation, another driver who pleaded anonymity told The Guardian that many drivers had on several occasions mistakenly crush the legs of some of these street traders, rendering them crippled.

The driver who observed that items mostly hawked by children who indulged in the aforementioned trade are pure water, plastic drinks, cooked and roasted maize to mention just a few also blamed their parents.

“I am of the opinion that government should come out with a policy that would regulate the number of children we should have in this country because most of the problems we faced now is as a result of over population.”

Some of the street traders who spoke to The Guardian agreed that they were compelled to engage in street trading because of the present economy situation.

Contrary to speculations that some of them are out of schools some of the children disclosed that they are students and pupils of some of the public schools in the state, but take to street trading immediately after the school hours.

They said: “Apart from using the proceeds from the trade to cater for their education, they use it to assist their parents. Leaving the trade without any alternative means of livelihood would compel a lot of us to engage in vices that would not only be inimical to the society, but to our lives as well.

“For the government to ban the trade, they ought to place our old parents that are doing nothing on a monthly salaries, and education at all level should be free.”

At the Ministry of Urban Planning, a top civil servant who pleaded anonymity felt sad at the recent massive demolition of illegal structures, which he observed gave rise to the ongoing increase in the street trading in the state.

“ Before embarking on such demolition, some of us expected that the government would have provided alternative place for those affected, because most of these people you see hawking on the streets were affected by the demolition exercise.”

The government official said: “ We should even be thanking God because they still take the pains to be under the sun hawking. You and I know that if it was to be in other parts of the country, majority of them would have taken to armed robbery.”

Aligning with street traders, “chasing them out of the streets,” he believed, would not be the best solution for now, suggesting that government should find a way of accommodating them.

Hawkers kick against possible ban in Ondo, say law is anti-human
From Oluwaseun Akingboye, Akure.
Most street traders and hawkers in Akure, Ondo State Capital have condemned the ban on street trading, describing its implementation in Lagos inconsiderate, inhumane and terrible indifference to the plight of the people.

Speaking to The Guardian, a car accessory hawker at the popular Oja-Oba in Akure Metropolis, Oscar Ben said: “How about thousands that are dying gradually as a result of hunger, poverty and unemployment?”

The hawker said that many of them resorted to street hawking to eke out a living, because they cannot afford huge capital to start a big business or get a shop.

He maintained that they never liked the hassles, hustles and bustles associated with hawking on the highways and streets, but since they cannot get better employment, they have to resort to hawking for survival.

It will be recalled that on April 14, this year a commercial bus driver lost control of his vehicle and rammed into a plantain chips hawker, identified as Johnson Ogah, killing him on the spot at Federal University of Technology Akure (FUTA) North Gate.

The Ondo Sector Commander of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Mr. Edward Zamber, who revealed that the accident occurred as a result of brake failure of the vehicle, emphasized on the dangers of hawking, stating that hawkers are susceptible to all sorts of mechanical contingencies.
“That is the danger in hawking on the road, we have been telling the people to desist from this act, but they refused. I think this has to stop so that lives will not be wasting away,” he said. Dispelling the report that traffic gridlock is mainly caused by hawkers in the metropolis, a gala sausage seller at the gate of Adeyemi College of Education (ACE), Ondo, said the submission was not true, but a mere accusation to block their “daily bread.”

A street trader, Yemi Omojowo, stated that they always look out for strategic places on the roadside to station their wares, pointing at the speed breakers and bumps at the gate of the college.

“We don’t in any way cause go-slow at all. Go to FUTA gate, Oja-Oba in Akure, Adeyemi gate, Lipakala Junction, Ore and other places like that, you will only see hawkers where there are bumps. We didn’t put the bumps there, so, how is it our fault?”

The hawkers urged Governor Olusegun Mimiko not to ban street trading in the State, stressing that if it becomes necessary, government must provide better alternatives, because they don’t want to steal and become nuisance to the society.

A town planner and Chairman of Downtown Agency, Mr. Adeniyi Adeyelu, told The Guardian that street hawking is the failure of the government in any society, noting that if government had put necessary infrastructure in place and created conducive environment, such social malaise will not occur.

His words: “What do you expect when the government builds a road and create platforms that look like stalls, when a street trader cannot afford the public market? What do you expect when the agencies are playing politics with enabling laws and town planning policies?”

The Coordinator of all women-led Non Governmental Organisations in the state, Mrs Folake Esan, lamented the impasse caused by the unguided activities of street traders in Akure metropolis and several attendant ills fomented on human sanctity such as child abuse.

“The hazards of street hawking especially for children are enormous. Apart from a few who may be able to get out of the situation and be prosperous, many of them may become prostitutes, armed robbers and some might even face teenage pregnancy,” she said.

Banning street trading without alternative is courting trouble -Lagosians
By Tobi Awodipe
It is no longer news that the Lagos state government, Akinwumi Ambode has banned street/traffic trading and postulated that whoever is caught buying or selling would pay a fine of N90, 000 or face a six- month jail term. Many Nigerians have reacted strongly to this, claiming it is harsh and draconian especially as alternatives have not been provided for the hawkers.

A visit to the Oshodi area of Lagos by The Guardian revealed that it was business as usual for the hawkers, which left people wondering if the law was yet to be enforced. A hawker who identified himself simply as Julius, admitted hearing the new law but says he is not bothered because they ‘settle’ the KAI officials that come around. Julius who hawks cold drinks at Oshodi Isale said, “this law cannot work. Who likes to stay in hot sun selling something? I am only doing this for a while till I save enough money to buy Keke Marwa, then I can start transport business.” Julius reveals that this is not the first time such laws would be made but never work because the officials always collect bribe. He laments that the law is a repressive one, as most of them have no other means of making a livelihood.

Several Nigerians have also bared their minds to The Guardian on how they feel about the ban. Muinat Atunnise, CEO of Atunnise clothiers says government should have looked for an alternative for the street hawkers before going ahead to ban them. “If you are trying to take someone’s livelihood from them, shouldn’t you do something else for them in return? These people are humans, Nigerians, and this is no way to treat your people. Saying you will jail them for hawking is not a good idea as far as I am concerned. What do you want them to do? These boys would then turn out to become pick-pockets and traffic robbers, as they don’t have anything to do and no way of making money. Unless you find an alternative, you are only creating problems for your government. Why didn’t they ask the hawkers what they wanted to do before hounding them? This was how agberoism was born and the governor has just swelled the Agbero population even more. Soon, they might form ‘Former Street Hawkers Association’ or something, sew uniforms like those ones we see at the bus stops, form hierarchy and become a public menace but the government would be powerless at that point because they would have gotten a voice. Where are the jobs? Government did not provide jobs for these people, they are hustling for themselves and you still want to impoverish them further? He did not deal with the core and this law is akin to using plaster to cover an accident wound without treating the wound first.

Sodiq Olabisi, a film vendor at Idumota is of the opinion that the law is not helpful in any way either. “The governor just increased crime for us on Eko Bridge and Third Mainland Bridge. All the former gala sellers would just start carrying gun and robbing innocent people since they have been banned from trying to make a legitimate means of livelihood. Before I got my shop, I was hawking films and I know how stressful it is but it was from there that I was able to save and get a shop. I know there are some bad eggs among them but it is not all of them surely. What the governor can do is to maybe tell them to wear something like uniform or something so we can identify them. Banning them outright is not the solution. The economic situation of the country is very bad and I can confidently tell you that there are some graduates among those hawkers, struggling to put food on the table.”

A visit to Ojota on Ikorodu road revealed that the number of hawkers had reduced but some were still on the express trading as usual. A woman who refused to divulge her name boasted that they couldn’t be caught as they had someone on the lookout that would signal to them in case any official came around to raid. She lamented that the officials were not treating them fairly, confiscating their goods unjustly when they had done nothing wrong.

Despite ban, street trading soars in Rivers
From Ann Godwin (Port Harcourt)
Street trading in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital is undoubtedly increasing on a daily basis despite laws against the menace and governments efforts to stop it.

Severally, the Rivers State government has demolished makeshift stalls, tables, umbrella of the street traders and even seized their wares to give a befitting look to the city but despite the measure, street trading and hawking have continued to soar in Garden City.

Findings revealed number of factors that have made the fight against roadside merchandise in Port Harcourt to be far from winning. First, there is no sustained effort by any administration in the state to eradicate the menace. Observations also showed that each government that comes, places a ban on street trading, clears the road but few months after, the traders return without disturbance.

Also, some residents have fingered the police for making the fight a fruitless one, as they alleged that the traders settle the police in various areas such trading is carried out to enable them do whatever they like.

The Guardian also gathered that the Local Government Councils were not helping matters as they engage touts who give permit to the traders and then make returns to the Council not minding the hazards of trading on the road or street.

Some part of the city in which illegal trading is carried out include; Rumuokoro, Eleme Junction, Oil Mill Junction, Rumuokwuta Junction, Location, Artillery Junction to Mile 1.

Other areas include; Creek Road in Port Harcourt old township, Borokiri, sandfield, new road among others are usually impassable especially Rumukoro as a result of the activities by the traders who display their goods on the road.

The worrisome situation is that while the traders cause nuisance on the road with their business activities, like obstruction of traffics, hoodlums attacks on motorists, stealing, many stalls in various markets in the city are unoccupied. For instance, not all the shops in Rumuokoro and Creek Road Market are occupied, yet you see traders almost taking over the road and no body cares.

Reeling out his experience, an investor around Rumokoro axis, the Chief Medical Director of Oasis Children Specialist Hospital, Dr. Appolous Josiah said, the menace of street trading in the area with its effect on traffic has seriously affected patronage to several businesses in the area.

He said, “ once you describe that your business is located around Rumuokoro, people will tell you it is a ‘no go area’  because of the holdups occasioned by the menace and attacks by hoodlums when in traffic”
“Street trading increases crime rate, several people who wound down their car screens while on holdup, have been attacked by hoodlums who made away with their belongings” He added.

While describing the situation as very worrisome, he alleged “ Police collect money from traders to allow them do what ever they like, also the Local Council does not help matters as they engage touts for such services who collect money from roadside traders without considering the effects”

However, in his reaction, the State Police Public Relation Officer, Omoni Nnamdi said, the allegation was not verifiable, stressing that markets belongs to the Local Councils as the police has no business collecting money from traders.

An environmentalist, Mr. Thomson Nweke, pointed out that roadside trading is associated with several hazards like accidents, ailments, regretting that the menace of street trading in Port Harcourt has remained unabated over three decades.

“The unwholesome practice of street trading and hawking of goods on roads is very hazardous to the environment and to human life”

Street traders at the popular Oba Market, Benin City PHOTO: ALEMMA-OZIORUVA ALIU

Street traders at the popular Oba Market, Benin City PHOTO: ALEMMA-OZIORUVA ALIU

Edo: It is still business as usual
From Alemma-Ozioruva Aliu, Benin City
If there is one area Edo State government under the leadership of Adams Oshiomhole would be assessed with mixed feelings, it is the issue of street trading which at different occasions pitched his administration against market women and several opposition groups in the State.

The government in its early stage frowned at street trading which led to the inauguration of a committee on War Against Indiscipline with special focus on street trading and displaying wares in walkways and other unauthorised areas.

From the famous Oba Market situated in the heart of the city, Ring Road to New Benin, street trading on walkways and roads is the order of the day.

From Uselu Market, several other big markets in Uromi Edo Central Auchi and Igarra in Edo North, the story is the same as market women trade their wares in the streets rather than stalls in the markets.

Oba Market for instance has over 20, 000 traders selling variety of commodities, but street trading has been its major problem despite that there are over 2000 abandoned lock­up stores in the market that can be used by these street traders.

The only perimeter fence in Oba Market has been converted to stores, because of the street traders’ refusal to go inside the market. Roads and walk-ways that surround it are now occupied by street traders who displayed their wares on them.

Several bans on street trading by the state government has always been best obeyed when the governor or government officials are on patrol or raid of such spots.
 The people of the state still remember the case of “go and die” widow when the governor, apparently out of frustrations told a widow who displayed her wares on the walkway to go and die even if she was a widow.

Speaking to The Guardian a 35-year old street trader, Joy Omoroghe described street trading as a bad habit, but stressed that with the economic situation, she no choice than to engage in it.

Omoroghe said: “There are no spaces inside the market to do our businesses. I am a graduate of College of Education, Ekiadolor but because there is no job that is why I choose to engage in street trading.

“My brother, person go must survive o! There are no jobs and it is not funny that government is not looking at that direction in terms of making jobs available. I no fit do “ashawo” and moreover I am married and I need to support my family.”

Meanwhile at the New Benin market, one of the traders, Miss Joy Augustine, said that not everybody could go inside the market to sell.

According to her,” There are people who may be returning from work and because of the fancy nature of the things we sell, they may just decide to make their choices straightaway. Look at it; how can somebody who is tired from work go inside the market to buy something when you can just get it by the roadside? Products on the roads sells faster than inside the market.”


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