By Ebele Orakpo

‘WHY are our  leaders so hell-bent on punishing the poor masses who voted them into power? Why are they so heartless? It seems there are demons that make them change into something else once they get to the seat of power,” said Chuks, a passenger in the Apapa-bound commuter bus.

“Bros, why do you say so?” asked Mike. Replied Chuks: “Imagine Governor Ambode outlawing street trading in Lagos State! Is that fair?” “But, isn’t that law long overdue? The law has been there for years; he just picked up the courage to enforce it as previous administrations tried and failed,” said Taju. Continued Taju: “So many young people have lost their lives due to street trading, so the ban is in order; just to save lives.”

“My brother, let’s call a spade a spade and not a farming implement. That law is inhuman and that is why previous administrations failed in their bid to implement it.

Street traders

The truth is that many of those recruited to enforce the ban also have their family members and friends as part of the street traders; so it will not work, period!” said Mike.

“For God’s sake, it is inhuman to be running in-between moving vehicles just to sell your wares. It is very dangerous. Some have lost their lives as a result,” said Meg.

“Yeah, every issue has its merits and demerits. In this case, the demerits far outweigh the merits. Just think of the thousands of people that will go hungry as a result. Most of these people depend on daily sales made on the streets. Sometimes the entire ware is not worth N1,000 but they have to do something just to keep body and soul together. They don’t want to steal or beg,” said Chuks.

“Many of those who got killed were knocked down by vehicles while trying to escape from KAI officials who would catch them, put them in their vehicle and lock them up until they can cough out a huge amount of money for bail. Otherwise, they sell mostly in slow moving traffic or in gridlocks,” said Nike.

“The negative impact will outweigh whatever good they are trying to do. For instance, there is already hunger in the land and these people are trying to eke out a living by engaging in street trading and you want to disengage them without making any alternative provisions for them? Of course they will become idle, hungry and angry. Anger has a way of making you brave as you lose all sense of fear. So people who would not ordinarily have the courage to take up arms and rob others, may decide to do so to survive and as a way of getting back at a society that has been unjust to them. So please, Ambode and co should have a rethink. Otherwise people will forget all the good works he’s been doing oo,” counselled Chuks.

“But can’t these people get shops?” asked Taju.

Replied Mike: “You amuse me. You are like the guy they told that a man was burnt to death and he asked if his beards were burnt also. What is the cost of renting the smallest shop in Lagos? If those people could afford it, you think they would prefer to suffer, in traffic to make N500 or less?”

“The most painful aspect is that the same government and its agents extort money from these street traders. A child hawking sachet water under the hot sun is made to pay some money to these agents or else, his water will be confiscated. Pure wickedness!” said Nike. “B ut I think it has to do with Lagos megacity plans,””said Meg.

“Megacity my foot. So there are no poor in megacities? Which megacity in the world doesn’t have street traders? It’s only a means for KAI to extort money from the poor masses,” said Chuks.

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