By Emeka Aginam
Despite the stance of the Lagos state government to go tough on anyone engaging in street trading across the State, many Information Communication Technology traders have continued with street trading and hawking in the major streets of the Nigerian silicon valley, the Computer Village Ikeja.
This comes few days after Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos stated his resolve to enforce an existing law, prohibiting street trading .
It would be recalled that following the crisis provoked by the death of a hawker who was reportedly crushed while trying to evade arrest by officials of the Lagos State Traffic Management Agency, Ambode had decided to enforce the provisions of the Street Trading and Illegal Market Prohibition Law 2003.
Although the ban has received serious condemnations from different quarters, the Lagos State Government had said that anybody engaging in street trading would be liable to pay either a fine of N90,000 or get a six-month jail term.
But a close monitoring of market activities in the largest ICT market in West Africa, the Computer Village Ikeja at the weekend revealed that many youths are still hawking various ICT products in the major streets of the market including Orameji, Otigba, among others.
Some of these traders who spoke to Sun Tech News yesterday lamented that the ban had made life unbearable for them. A pirated software seller along Oremeji street who only identified himself as Chibuzo said that sales had dropped drastically for him since the ban as a result of what he described as incessant harassments from the law enforcement agents.
“But how do you want me to survive? I cannot afford to pay for shop. I do not have the financial strength to do that. I am a father of four. I have to pay bills. Hawking is better than robbery. Government should create an enabling environment for low income earners to thrive. That is the only way to go otherwise there will be more militancies”, he lamented.
Also speaking, a phone seller in Otigba street of the market who did not want her name in print said that the Lagos state government was insensitive following the ban.
“Hawking in the street of this market is better than prostitution. The people you see in this street are responsible. Some are married. Some are still single. Some of them have one family responsibility or the other. The government should provide an alternative for the street traders who cannot afford to pay for full shops. But one must survive”, she explained.
Even though street trading is not allowed in structured markets across the nation, street traders at the Computer Village Ikeja have continued to be at the mercy of Community Development Association, CDA, Police, Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI), under the Lagos State Government Ministry of Environment and Street urchins
Although street trading has continued to disrupt movement of goods and persons in the market, the CDA, Police and Area Boys are benefiting from their activities.
According to findings, every street trader on daily basis pays N500 to KAI, N300 to CDA and N300 to Police.
These illegal levies, it was learnt, are collected and returned to various interests in the market including the Police at the market and CDA by an agent apart from KAI that collects their own personally. With the illegal levies, the street traders pass it to the end users who pay high price on products.
However, this development has forced prices of phones and Laptops to go up.
“But do not expect prices of devices to remain the same with all these extortions? It is just impossible”, a phone repairer exclaimed.
Reacting to the new development, the Public Relations Officer Computer and Allied Product Dealers Association of Nigeria, CAPDAN, Mr Godwin Enamor, said that street trading in the market is obstructing movement of goods and persons.
“It is scaring foreign investors. But it is hoped that the market will wear a new look soon as the government plans to provide enabling environment for every business to thrive in the market”, he assured.
Meanwhile, the state branch of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights has condemned the ban on street trading.
The State chairman, Mr. Alex Omotehinse, in a media report had accused the state government of “lacking in social welfare responsibility”.
“It is important to note that a large percentage of the street hawkers are youths who, as a result of the failure of the government in its social responsibility, designed alternative means of surviving and not engage in crime,” the CDHR said.