Street trading: Public menace or means of survival?
Recently at the Maryland end of the Ikorodu Road in Lagos State, there was chaos as some hoodlums, who were protesting the death of a hawker, vandalised no fewer than 15 government-owned vehicles. The hawker, 22-year-old Nnamdi John, was crushed to death by a Nissan Pathfinder and a trailer, while escaping from some officials of the Kick Against Indiscipline, the enforcement arm of the Lagos State Ministry of Environment.
The officials were said to be returning from the Ojuelegba area, where they had gone for a raid and had stopped over at Maryland to round up hawkers and roadside traders in the area.
Following the ugly incident, the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, announced the enforcement of law banning street trading and hawking. Ambode warned that the law stipulates six months jail term or N90,000 fine for offenders.
The governor said that the renewed enforcement was in line with Section One of the Lagos State Street Trading and Illegal Market Prohibition Law 2003, which restricts street trading and hawking in the metropolis.
Sometimes in Benin City, the Edo State capital, in 2013 the State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, while on a sanitation tour of the state, had a bitter encounter with a widow and street trader, Mrs. Joy Ifije whom he told to “go and die.”
That singular action put the governor on the spotlight, as many Nigerians including the opposition party in the state PDP criticized the governor’s action.
Sensing that the action may cause him his re-election, Oshiomhole quickly donated the sum of N2 million and offered automatic employment to the widow after apologising to her.
Oshiomhole, appealed to the widow to join in the campaign against road and walkways trading, saying that exposing consumables to unhygienic sanitary conditions was injurious to the health of everyone.
Despite all this, street trading thrives in Benin City unhindered till date, just like every other city across the country, thereby raising the question whether street trading is a public nuisance or a means of livelihood.
If it is a public nuisance, why has it become so difficult for governments at all levels to curb it? If it is a means of livelihood, why are people and governments building stalls and markets? Why are people engaging in it at the risk of their lives and expense of others?
Speaking to The Guardian on the matter, a Town Planning Expert, Mr. Moses Ogunleye, said that street trading is not peculiar to Nigeria.
“It is a global practice because people will always want to display their wares on the road, but in developed countries of the world, it is highly prohibited and ban enforced.
“I commend Lagos State government for enforcing the ban. The law has there since 2003, but has not been effectively implemented. There is no justification for people to trade on the streets or major roads.
On people that cannot afford to pay shops, Ogunleye advised government and individuals to build more affordable shops for traders to their businesses.