Tackling The Menace Of Lagos Roadside Trading

In recent time, street trading and begging have become common sight on Lagos streets and highways. They are now some of the misuses plaguing the public open spaces in the state with up to a million street traders existing in the state. The worrisome side of this is that it has become a major prevailing form of child labour, as every major road now serves as centre of trading activities by children mostly below 18 years. Some of the child hawkers daily face the risk of death while it is more dangerous for first timers because they don’t know how to stand by the road and move between vehicles in the traffic. As a result, some have been knocked down in the course of business.

Today, the menace of street trading has reached a frightening dimension because of the poor socio-economic status of many families in Nigeria. In the booming roadside trade, which also involves young people running after moving vehicles, the articles of trade include fresh fruits, beverages, wrist watches, phone SIMs or recharge cards, handsets and accessories, as well as snacks. It can be argued that roadside trading absorbs unemployment, but this is at a cost higher and hazardous than its benefit. It enables hooligans and armed robbers to costume themselves as hawkers and cause pandemonium on the roads.

It also manifests in indiscriminate occupation of public space in defiance of formal planning and land use arrangements; it has become impediments to free flow of pedestrian and motorized traffic and congested transportation networks. Roadside trading, especially by children of school age, is a negation of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child and also not in accord with the Lagos State social protection services.

It is pathetic and contradicts the quest for the progress of Lagos as envisioned by the Akinwunmi Ambode administration as well as the Lagos State Development Plan. There is divergence of opinions on what should be the response of the state government to street trading. Some are against the ban on street trading on the account that it is an integral part of African culture. Others see it as a manifestation of both poverty and underdevelopment, while some others see it as a natural trend in every major city of the world.

What those who hold this view, however, forget to add is that trade regulation and issuance of trade licence is a standard practice in every civilized country of the world. It is, indeed, difficult to see how a phenomenon that promotes child trafficking, misuses of public open spaces, insecurity on the highways, environmental degradation and violation of human rights could be allowed to thrive in any sane society.

It is crucial to reveal that the Lagos State Development Plan 2012-2025, upon which the state government anchors its developmental programmes, is structured under four pillars of Social Development and Security; Infrastructural Development; Economic Development, and Sustainable Development. Unequivocally, there is no way street trading will be accommodated if our development plan is to become a reality. The Lagos state Ministry of Youth and Social Development has identified and reported severally that street trading is a major contributor to child trafficking.

Its Education counterpart is saddled with responsibility of mainstreaming out-of-school children into formal school systems. Despite the huge resources that the state government has committed into education, street trading partly contributes to low academic performance and outright school drop-out by children in the state.

In a recent study carry out in Epe division of the state, among child traders, 70 per cent of them admitted that street trading had a negative effect on their reading schedule, while 79.2 per cent reported that it affected their school attendance rate. No responsible person should be happy seeing children in uniform or mufti hawking goods at hours when they ought to be in schools. It is, indeed, inhuman for anyone to engage a child in money making venture as seen every day on our roads with children running after moving buses and cars to sell and collect money.

Aside that, such children are denied basic education which is another important right of every child. Many children have sustained lifelong injuries through street trading and hawking. Moreover, children who engage in hawking or other forms of hard labour may physically wear away before they actually reach the productive age in the economy.

Many children had died as a result of hawking in traffics through accidents. With all the environmental menace and insecurity associated with street trading, it is quite obvious that it could birth other social and security problems. It should be stressed that Nigeria has enacted legislation concerning child labour within the Labour Act and has also adopted the Child Right Act (CRA) (2003).

A key provision of the CRA is that using children for hawking is a punishable offence under the Act while Section 59 (b) of the Labour Act which prohibits the employment of children under the age of 16 years in any work which is dangerous and injurious to their health.



Source: National Mirror Nigeria

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