The War On Street Trading In Lagos | Independent Newspapers Limited
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The War On Street Trading In Lagos

Posted: Jul 21, 2015 at 4:11 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Last week the Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, revisited the 2010 environmental law that prohibits street trading and begging when he directed the State’s Task Force on Environmental Sanitation and other Special Offences, to carry out full enforcement of the law in the metropolis. In a statement signed by the Secretary to the State government, Mr Tunji Bello, he noted that not only did the traders constitute environmental nuisance, but posed security threat to citizens.

Street trading and begging, as the State Government rightly pointed out, are hazardous, because they constitute a risk, since they make pedestrians stop on the road for the wrong reasons, while traffic is moving. However, considering the harsh economic climate prevalent in the country presently, we believe that the government should have a human face while executing the law.

Most stalls in the modern malls built on sites that formerly hosted ancient markets and those springing up in new areas are priced out of reach of the potential tenant or outright buyer. It is practically impossible for a renovated stall, built on a site that housed a stall that belonged to generations of pepper sellers, for example, to be retained in the same family at the ongoing rates and yet these people must feed.

While we are not advocating that Nigerians should risk their lives selling by the roadside, in the face of fast moving vehicles, but the state government can do more to accommodate these people that are trapped by economic circumstances in the lower cadre of the society. The government should come up with more ingenious and permanent ways to ensure that   traders doing business on the lower rungs do not kill themselves and others in the bid to survive.

In other climes, certain streets had been dedicated to street trading on certain days or at certain times of the day. Some of these markets have been around for over 200 years and are tourist attractions. For centuries, they have housed and met the needs of traders who could not afford highbrow and expensive shops. In the case of those that operate at certain times, the excitement is in passing a market in the morning and by afternoon, the road is a thoroughfare for vehicular movement.

Indeed governments all over the world are seeking ways to meet all the demands of every sector. We can borrow a leaf from places that have successfully balanced the ability to meet these needs rather than use force and intimidation as answers to questions that are begging to be resolved with sympathy. What more, countries that have found answers to such disabilities also rake in tons of money from tourists who come, knowing they could buy a tourist map/guide that tells them, which market is on what day and where, and visiting such markets.

We believe that it is not right to put policies in place that will affect the livelihood of citizens and then relax them during elections, only to tighten the noose again after elections. This would only continue to breed criminals, when people are deprived consistently of their means of existence either through confiscation or destruction of their wares. The government should realise that survival is the main thought in the minds of these traders.

The Lagos State Government should also share the blame for street trading because in the drive to increase revenue, Revenue Collectors issue tickets to these street vendors, thus adding legitimacy to what they term illegal when it suits the circumstance.

We  appeal to Governor Ambode and his cabinet to proffer solutions to street trading that will not bring out the animal in individuals who are pushed to the wall, but create a Lagos where everyone is contributing to growth and development amicably and adding quality to the sights and sounds of Lagos State.