Governor Ambode can regard this as an open letter from KOWA PARTY, Lagos State Branch on the issue of Illegal Street Trading and Unemployment amidst youths in our beloved state.
We want to commend the governor for recognizing and addressing the problem that is illegal street trading in Lagos State. His approach to governance and problem solving for the past one year has been laudable and tackling this problem head on is an evident offshoot of that resolve. Street trading is a problem for vehicles and their passengers and also a very dangerous venture for the young men and women selling their goods along the highways. These business people sometimes have to run after vehicles and zigzag between fast moving vehicles endangering their own lives in the quest to earn a living.
While we commend the governor for finally noticing one of the many problems facing Lagos state and her residents, we are appalled by his poorly thought out kneejerk reaction. We believe this is a problem that can be solved in a more humane manner seeing as these business men and women don’t set to become criminals and would most likely willingly engage in legitimate business, earn a living, pay their taxes and contribute positively to society.
When decisions are made by those who lead, consequences follow and in this case, consequences for both passengers who patronize hawkers in long hours of traffic and as a matter of necessity require the services and the product of these hawkers and the hawkers who have to earn a living by risking their lives to sell a product that they usually cannot even use. Majority of these Nigerians who have chosen to be street hawkers have done so as a last resort having refused the option of crime and if as a result of this new law announced by Mr Governor, a flagrant contradiction of the Lagos State Street Trading and Illegal Markets Law of 2003, which is a fine of N5,000 or a three months imprisonment upon conviction, an increase in crime rate in the state is to be expected. On a psychological front, the countless man hours spent in traffic should also be expected by Lagosians to be more frustrating since purchasing what to eat or getting a needed tool as small and important as an handkerchief in hot weather traffic would now be a crime from which we can even go ahead to infer less productivity at work due to this frustration.
We believe that rather than just arrest these people, slam them in jail and/or impose a gargantuan fine on them just to release them back into the streets the government can be creative with its implementation of its N25b ETF. Asides encouraging them to willingly come forward to take advantage of the fund, which most of them have never heard of and those who know about it probably have no idea of how to access it, the government can and should primarily send officials into the streets to educate these people about the fund and the procedures of accessing it. It should also go without saying that the fund should be very easy to access and not require the million and one bottlenecks usually associated with such interventions.
Also another no-brainer should be proper skills acquisition and other such training before the funds and disbursed. As we don’t believe in just throwing money at problems disbursed funds must be followed up to ensure they are spent judiciously and repaid thus sustaining it for access for future use. After this is done and a trader is found to be recalcitrant and goes back to the dangerous venture of street trading then we can bring down the hammer. We believe there will only be confusion if we place the cart before the horse.
We also want to bring to the notice of the governor another major menace on our streets. The streets of Lagos are inundated with young men, running after and zigzagging between moving vehicles, harassing road users, most especially commercial buses, for money. These men are purportedly on the payroll of NURTW.
While we do not suggest that the governor unduly interferes in the affairs of a registered trade union, we believe the current method the union applies in collecting its revenue from members is unwholesome and poses a grave danger to the lives of road users and the revenue collectors themselves. We believe that it is high time the leadership of NURTW is called for a meeting to devise better and most importantly safer ways of revenue collection. We also believe that many of the young men currently engaged in the dangerous, and I suppose illegal, venture of running after buses to collect money would benefit immensely from the ETF initiative.
Lastly we wish to encourage you to continuously put the interest of your true bosses, the people of Lagos state, first in all your activities and assignments as the executive governor of Lagos state.
Dr Fajuyitan Fadahunsi,