Ambode, Reconsider Street Trading Ban

 Ambode, Reconsider Street Trading Ban

Ambode-1024x695Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, strikes many people, including friends and foes, as a refreshing breadth of fresh air. His quiet effectiveness, sense of mission, grasp of the art and science of governance and administrative ingenuity that have begun to yield meaningful developments for the people of Lagos are some of the reasons why some are already saying perhaps a bigger man than Fashola is in the saddle. Even when he was severely criticized for his tentativeness at the onset of his administration, he neither joined issues with the critics nor hired loads of sycophants and praise singers to plead his case like his fellow lords of the manors are wont to do. He weathered the storm, responded through deeds that showed his preparedness for the job and vision for a greater Lagos.
Lately, Ambode has given critics some new ammunition to pummel him. It all started when he enunciated his readiness to ensure that Lagos lives to up to its billing as a mega polis of international dimension. The route to the new Lagos, according to Ambode, includes new and audacious plan for the Oshodi heartland and a cleaner and saner highways and streets across the state. To achieve the Lagos of his and our dream, Ambode wants to and has actually decreed street trading and hawking out of existence. To show his seriousness and determination to stamp out this blight he has prescribed a humongous fine of N90, 000, a princely sum in this time and clime, for hawkers and their patrons who run afoul of the law and those who cannot pay will spend six months in jail. Some offenders will get both at the same time.
Yes, it is important to ensure some order on the streets and inner roads particularly relating to hawking on highbrow streets and in traffic on major highways. I support the ban on hawking on highways. It constitutes clear and present danger to the hawkers, their patrons and other road users. It is also a sore sight to first time visitors and foreigners who daily throng our Lagos from other climes. But this matter of outright ban on street trading and hawking without providing any workable alternative is an invitation to a bigger problem. Simply put Ambode will create a bigger problem in the process of solving a big problem. It will cast him in the pantheon of elitist rulers of the people. And compounding it with a N90, 000 as fine for hawkers and their patrons is overkill.
The way out is to look at what other managers of megapolis have done to manage street hawkers and traders. After all there exist various street markets in major cities across the world including the famous Oxford and Pecham High Street Markets in London, Jemaa, Marakech in Morocco and the Temple Street Market in Hong Kong. And if you have visited London especially the Pecham area you will still notice loads and loads of street traders and hawkers displaying their wares, soliciting for patrons and making brisk business. Therefore Ambode and his government should reconsider the outright ban on street trading. While hawking on busy major highways should be discouraged and banned, street traders should be given another window to make a living. Government should also look for ways to designate certain areas as street markets in places where street trading is prevalent. In such arenas, people will be free to buy and sell without let or hindrance.
However the most compelling reason why Ambode should take a second look and fine tune the new initiative is its potential to cause major social upheaval. The law will be a ready tool in the hands of overzealous officials especially the various layers of security outfits in the state who will hound and hunt potential preys, milking some in the process and chasing some to their deaths on the highways.


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