Thursday 14 July 2016

Lagos ban on street trading: The issues, emotions, possibilities

WE will be watching out for buyers and sellers; all we need is just a scapegoat. Don’t buy plantain chips or any other items in traffic from July 1, buyers beware.

The issue is we need to enforce our laws because we already have a law in respect of that and then there is a clause in it which says the buyer and the seller are both liable and that we are going to fine them either N90, 000 or a six-month jail term. ”

It was on this definitive note that the Governor of Lagos State, Mr.  Akinwumi Ambode, recently outlawed street trading in the state. Contrary to the impression that the action was a knee-jerk response to what the state considers a problem, it was done in line with the Lagos State Street Trading and Illegal Markets Prohibition Law, 2003.
The law, VanguardFeatures, VF, gathered, restricted street trading and hawking in the metropolis.
Specifically,  sections seven and eight gave jurisdiction and power to the Special Court to order the seizure and public auction of items impounded from street traders. Section 10 of the law, also prescribes a N5000 fine or three months imprisonment upon conviction.

As punitive as the penalties are, the law has been hardly observed and loosely applied 13 years after; making street trading in Lagos to grow in leaps and bounds at the expense of human lives and  public good.
It was this failure that resulted in the incident of July 1, 2016, when a street hawker who was trying to escape from enforcement officials of Kick Against Indiscipline, KAI, was run over by a BRT bus.  The incident led to the destruction of dozens of BRT buses by a mob.

Since the symbolic revival of the law by the state government, VF observed that concerns bordering on the fate of street traders, supposed social effects, public mood and feasibility of the law had been freely expressed. Of these, the application of the law in the face of pockets of sympathy for the hawkers seems more overriding to many who had long expected the government to curb the menace posed by street trading.

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