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Computer Village: Street hawkers still threaten free movement despite ban

By Emeka Aginam
Again, activities of street hawkings in the streets  Nigerian Silicon Valley, the Nigerian Computer Village Ikeja are still disrupting free movement of  goods and persons despite ban by the Lagos State Ministry of Environment, Vanguard CyberLIFE findings can now reveal.

SBusiness activities along Anibiyi street in Computer Village Ikeja, last Monday in Lagos . Photo by Emeka Aginam

Unfortunately, efforts by the security agents and the  Lagos State Ministry of Environment to stop street hawking in the  streets of the Nigerian Silicon Valley, the Computer Village Ikeja where computer accessaries, peripherals, GSM handsets are sold, according to findings, may not have yielded  the expected results   as street hawkers  in the largest African ICT  market has  continued to grow in geometric progression, making business activities difficult for visitors who come in from other West African sub-region  to trade.

The current scenario in the market, according to findings,  has resulted in heavy human  traffic, making  it difficult for visitors to freely move from one shop to the other.
A close monitoring of business activities last week and this Monday  in the  major streets of the  markets including Orameji, Ortigba, Anibiyi, Adapele and many more revealed that hawkers have again, returned back to their normal  business  despite ban by the regulatory authorities.

This development which has threatened free movement of person and goos, according to findings by Vanguard CyberLIFE,  has continued to worry visitors,  ICT vendors, the Lagos State Ministry of environment, security agenst and  the Computers and Allied Products Dealers Association of Nigeria, (CAPDAN)

Although there have been occasional raids by security agents, the apparent truth, according to findings is that normal free movement that existed before now  is gradually disappearing by the day, living visitors worse off whenever  they  want to come to the largest African ICT market said to be toast of international inventors to trade.

For many observers, security agents in the market and the Lagos Ministry of Environment  may  have been helpless  in an attempt to enforce compliance regarding the activities of  these street trading which constitute a major problem in the said market.

Even with  the Police Post located at the heart of the market, street trading and activities of street urchins selling stolen phones in the streets  have remained unabated, living the umbrella body, the Computers and Allied Products Dealers Association of Nigeria helpless in their attempt to restore sanity in the market.

Despite the fact that  street hawkings is not only limited to Computer Village Ikeja, further findings revealed that hawking in the said market which is increasing by the day  because of lack of enforcement are having the  back  up of  ‘Area Boys’ who allocate spaces to them for agreed amonut of money that never get to the government treasury.

Apart from street trading, further findings reveal that okada riders and double parking by visitors and traders along the streets of the market have also contributed to congestion in the popular ICT  market  said to have provided jobs to over 500 Nigerian graduates.

Majority of these street traders, according to  findings, represent young boys and girls who are either looking  for admission into the university or  trying to make out a living in the face of  current economic realities.

Meanwhile, the Director, Special Duties, Internal Revenue Services of the Lagos State Board of Internal Revenue, Mr. Oseni Kunle had during the time of closure of the market for some days  in 2008 said  that there was no going back in banning street trading.“No more street trading. No more illegal structures in Computer Village.

If a structure is illegal, it would have been marked. We will continue to restore sanity in this market for the interest of all” he said.
But majority of the hawkers who spoke to Vanguard CyberLife last Monday  lamented that they do not have choice other than to trade in the streets  as a result of high cost of renting shop in the popular ICT market.

“But what  do you expect us to do? Do you want many of us  to go into prostitution or armed robbery? We do not have enough money to rent shops here. Our bail out option is to trade in the street and survive in the current global economic crisis which have messed up everything.

“ The government should please, give us  time to survive” Ikenna Onyeka, a street trader selling used GSM phones said.
According to him, they are under the mercy of Area Boys who collect money from them on daily basis without necessarily paying anything back to the government treasury.

For Emeka Odila, who also deals  on used Cellular phones, street trading is the only way most Nigerians youths who are not gainfully employment can survive the current hard time.

“Where do you want to go? Where do you want us to start? Times are hard and we have to survive. Trading or hawking in the street is better than doing 419 or prostitution.

“That is why many of us here  who are discipline still hawk under the sun or rain to survive for our livelihood” he said.
While arguing that the Computer Village is not the only place where people hawk, he appealed to the Lagos State government to create enabling environment that can  make it possible for low income earners to own a shop.  For one thing, the current  scenario in the Computer Village market which may not be conducive for corporate  business activities, according to keen observers may have informed the decision of the  Lagos State government to relocate the market to another environment.

The relocation of Computer Village, it would  be recalled has divided CAPDAN as a result of different interest groups making case for the market to be relocated to a place of the their choice.

It is the  the decision to relocate the market to Gumm Land, where majority of vendors are building Teck Park and Kotangowa where the State government has approved  as a new site.

But that as it may, the real truth is that Lagos State Ministry of Environment, security agents posted to the market and CAPDAN must fashion out the best way to make the market a conducive place to trade, thereby attracting foreign investors.


Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.