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What Are The Pros And Cons For Banning Street Trading In Lagos State And Repercussion In Nigeria?

JEROME MICHAEL EBRUPHIYO Friday, November 5, 2021 Basis

 

Introduction

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. This article will provide information on "what are the pros and cons of banning street trading in Lagos state and repercussion in Nigeria and also provide answers to questions as regards to the pros and cons of banning street trading in Lagos state and its repercussion in Nigeria.

What is Street Trading?

There are so many definitions of street trading according to different authors. We will be considering the definition of street trading from the town planners' perspective. Street trading can be defined as the act of engaging in commercial activities in illegal structures or open spaces within the building line. We can also say that street trading is a form of squatting which involves the perpetual display of goods and services along roadsides. The history of the criminalization of street trade can be traced to the ancient traditional planning in Yorubaland where it was considered illegal to trade on the streets. They however argued that the proliferation of traders on urban streets in recent times is linked to unplanned urban growth on the one hand, and the elitist and top-down approach to urban planning where there is no active participation of the residents on the other. Governance strategies are imperative in dealing with issues of poor people’s livelihoods and this includes urban planning approach to the issue of street trade. More so, it has been argued that social acceptability of livelihood policies and programmes play a significant role in ensuring the sustainability of livelihoods.

Brief Insight on the History of the Lagos State Street Trading Ban

It is important to state from the outset that the state government has not enacted any new law concerning street trading. What it has merely done is to enforce a law that has been in existence before now. Thus, the Lagos State Street Trading and Illegal Market Prohibition Law, 2003, which prescribes a punishment of N90, 000 or a six-month jail term, for both the buyer and the seller of any goods or services on the streets, predates the current administration. Globally, formulating laws and enforcing same for the good of the society is one of the cardinal tasks of governments. A major difference between human society and the animal kingdom is that the earlier is regulated through set rules and regulations for the preservation of law and order while the latter thrives on jungle code which gives rise to anarchy. It is in order to ensure that human societies don’t descent into chaos that laws are enacted to guide human conducts. Globally, human societies are roughly classified into developed and developing nations and one of the major indices used in arriving at such categorization is ability to live by set rules. In developed nations, conducts of the citizenry are largely guided by set rules. But then, same cannot be said of developing nations where deliberate acts of lawlessness and disorderliness are often the order of the day. It seems one of the unwritten codes, here, is gross disdain for the law. In such nations, drivers, riders and other road users behave without recourse to the law. It is not that they are ignorant of the law. No! They recognize the law. They just don’t care about the law. Ironically, when same people find themselves in climes where the law is revered, they readily stoop to the supremacy of the law. One of the recurring arguments from the stable of those who are against the Lagos state government’s recent enforcement of the law on street trading is the poverty angle. The basis of this argument is that since street traders are poor people with no other source of livelihood, they should be allowed to go on with their street business. But then, this line of argument is rather too simplistic. It is akin to asking the police to ignore a petty thief because he stole out of poverty. It is equally similar to demanding that KAI officials should not reprimand someone who was involved in open defecation just because there are no public toilets along the route.

Security of Land Tenure among Street Traders in Cities

It is important to stress that inclusive cities must consider the priorities of the urban poor and economically disadvantaged groups such as street traders. Because of its ability to accommodate the poor and skill-less majority of urban residents, street trading is now considered as integral to the functionality of cities. However, owing to their status as illegal occupants of urban public space, and because they lack security of tenure, street traders are largely nomadic traders who run with their wares at the sight of municipal authorities. Because the urban poor are engaged in informality, they often lack security of tenure or face difficulty in an attempt towards securitization of their land tenure status. As a result, they argued, urban planning policies and the livelihoods of the poor are usually in conflict. In similar terms, urban authorities have the tendency to deliberately harass street traders and see them as a nuisance to the urban streetscape. For instance, although street traders in Lagos are effective tax payers, there has not been any public policy effort aimed at legalising the activity. The insecurity of tenure can lead to livelihood insecurity. Furthermore, insecure livelihoods can lead to a wide range of social, economic and health challenges such as food insecurity, crimes, ill-health, low life expectancy and proliferation of slums and squatter settlements. Existing urban planning regulations in Nigeria such as setback regulations and zoning ordinance, for instance, contributes to the livelihood vulnerability and insecurity among urban poor residents. The Nigerian Building Code specifically emphasizes the need to deviate from the occupation of setbacks by temporary economic activities and stipulates strict punitive measures to deal with offenders. It has been noted that municipal authorities are sentimental and biased in their attack of street traders. Their selective attack is evident from the fact that they mostly target the poor and new immigrants whose businesses are relatively small while large businesses are left to operate freely on the street. The eviction of street traders is engendered by selfish interests.

Reactions to Banning Street of Street Trading in Lagos State, Nigeria

A novelist wrote an article in view of the ban placed on street trading in Lagos state where he pointed out an example of a newspaper vendor who still sold his papers in traffic, and had the mindset that only sellers of edible items like ‘gala’, biscuits and drinks were affected by the law. He said "I spoke to a woman who had refused to shade her wares in her small kiosk positioned in the safety of her street. She jovially explained that she wanted to be sure that she was indeed safe before she ‘resumed work’. We have to acknowledge the Governor of Lagos State, Akinwumi Ambode and his drive for a better life for Lagosians. His act, showed that he indeed cared about the lives of Lagosians. However, one has to consider that the decision was quite drastic, and acknowledge the future realities that could result from this ‘simple’ action. Street trading (traffic Hawking especially) is one of the most functional markets in Nigeria. Hundreds of Lagosians earn their living by selling petty wares in traffic. It might not be wrong to say that the number of hawkers in Lagos surpasses a combination of welders, plumbers, vulcanizers, and maybe even mechanics. A vast majority of them fall within the bracket of (10-40) years of age. So many of these people have only seen the four walls of primary schools and maybe secondary schools. Let us choose to believe that all of these people were forced into Hawking by ‘condition’ and poverty. We believe that the Governor has not out of grief, made a decision that would bring unfathomable repercussions to the Nigerian state because we have to take a look at both sides. Hawking is not something that a parent would/should be proud of (especially when little boys and girls below the age of 15 are involved). It is a mis-normal to see young kids running up and down the main road, risking their lives, chasing after windows, just to sell one or two items. Sometimes, when bus passengers purchase some of these items, the bus drivers are not considerate enough to wait for the transactions to be completed. And since Nigerians generally have the ”goods and change before I give you money” mentality, these young hawkers are usually left with no choice but to run after buses. The risks abound (death which is the ultimate price) in few cases. Although deaths cases do not occur everyday, it only occurs in rare cases, but even one death is enough to bring sorrow to the mind of an observer.

What is the Way Forward on how to Resolve the Issue of the Ban Placed on Street Trading Without Conflict?

These street hawkers create the perfect opportunity sometimes, and foster highway robbery and other forms of criminal activities on the road. Many tales have been told, many experiences have been shared. Street traders deserve a better life, and they should be taken off the streets. But you do not take food out of a man’s mouth when you do not have an alternative for him. This law should be a ‘process’. Putting an abrupt stop to the activities of this large market might have dangerous back-firing effects. The already corrupt police system has been given another chance to exploit the poor. The Government of Lagos State should therefore make plans towards establishing these street traders before asking them to live the street in order to reduce the crime rate of the state and the country at large.

What are the Disadvantages of Street Trading?

Some of the problems faced by street traders are the demarcation of working areas, lack of childcare centres, storage of their goods, affordable overnight accommodation, and lack of finance. Some of the resources are there, but are not accessible to street traders.

What Effect Does Street Trading have?

Street trading is a form of squatting that involves perpetual movement that may occur within established market places or around road intersections which results to several negative impacts on physical environment such as traffic congestion, environmental pollution, and aesthetically unpleasing environment.

Conclusion

Nigeria is a country that has serious misinterpretation issues, especially when the situation involves life and survival. These kinds of information should be properly communicated to the public so that everyone can have first hand knowledge of the situation.

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