By Emeka Aginam
Again, activities of street hawkings in the streetsÂ Nigerian Silicon Valley, the Nigerian Computer Village Ikeja are still disrupting free movement ofÂ goods and persons despite ban by the Lagos State Ministry of Environment, Vanguard CyberLIFE findings can now reveal.
Unfortunately, efforts by the security agents and theÂ Lagos State Ministry of Environment to stop street hawking in theÂ streets of the Nigerian Silicon Valley, the Computer Village Ikeja where computer accessaries, peripherals, GSM handsets are sold, according to findings, may not have yieldedÂ the expected resultsÂ Â as street hawkersÂ in the largest African ICTÂ market hasÂ continued to grow in geometric progression, making business activities difficult for visitors who come in from other West African sub-regionÂ to trade.
The current scenario in the market, according to findings,Â has resulted in heavy humanÂ traffic, makingÂ it difficult for visitors to freely move from one shop to the other.
A close monitoring of business activities last week and this MondayÂ in theÂ major streets of theÂ markets including Orameji, Ortigba, Anibiyi, Adapele and many more revealed that hawkers have again, returned back to their normalÂ businessÂ despite ban by the regulatory authorities.
This development which has threatened free movement of person and goos, according to findings by Vanguard CyberLIFE,Â has continued to worry visitors,Â ICT vendors, the Lagos State Ministry of environment, security agenst andÂ 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 nowÂ is gradually disappearing by the day, living visitors worse off wheneverÂ theyÂ 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 EnvironmentÂ mayÂ have been helplessÂ in an attempt to enforce compliance regarding the activities ofÂ these street trading which constitute a major problem in the said market.
Even withÂ the Police Post located at the heart of the market, street trading and activities of street urchins selling stolen phones in the streetsÂ 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 thatÂ street hawkings is not only limited to Computer Village Ikeja, further findings revealed that hawking in the said market which is increasing by the dayÂ because of lack of enforcement are having theÂ backÂ up ofÂ â€˜Area Boysâ€™ 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 ICTÂ marketÂ said to have provided jobs to over 500 Nigerian graduates.
Majority of these street traders, according toÂ findings, represent young boys and girls who are either lookingÂ for admission into the university orÂ trying to make out a living in the face ofÂ 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 daysÂ in 2008 saidÂ that there was no going back in banning street trading.â€œNo 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 allâ€ he said.
But majority of the hawkers who spoke to Vanguard CyberLife last MondayÂ lamented that they do not have choice other than to trade in the streetsÂ as a result of high cost of renting shop in the popular ICT market.
â€œBut whatÂ do you expect us to do? Do you want many of usÂ 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.
â€œ The government should please, give usÂ time to surviveâ€ 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 dealsÂ on used Cellular phones, street trading is the only way most Nigerians youths who are not gainfully employment can survive the current hard time.
â€œWhere 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.
â€œThat is why many of us hereÂ who are discipline still hawk under the sun or rain to survive for our livelihoodâ€ 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 canÂ make it possible for low income earners to own a shop.Â For one thing, the currentÂ scenario in the Computer Village market which may not be conducive for corporateÂ business activities, according to keen observers may have informed the decision of theÂ Lagos State government to relocate the market to another environment.
The relocation of Computer Village, it wouldÂ 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 theÂ the decision to relocate the market to Gumm Land, where majority of vendors are building Teck Park and Kotangowa where the State government has approvedÂ 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.