The Lagos government yesterday announced that, starting from July 1, 2016, it would commence total enforcement against street hawking and street buying with N90,000 fine, 6 months in prison, or both. This does not seem to bother most Lagosians so much, because many believe it engenders a civilized environment.
What is the reason for wanting to get traders off the street? They are to reduce traffic in Lagos, avoid accidents and make our environment appear civil. Fine, below is a quick analysis:
How many deaths in Lagos have been caused by accidents or delays that can be linked to hawking? Maybe 500/month (of course that is an exaggerated figure). How many deaths are caused by malnutrition and inability to settle health bills? According to NOIPolls, these factors contribute cause death 24% of the time. This account for 1,059 of the 4,410 maternal deaths per month in Lagos. This is only for maternal deaths!
And if this is about civility, it is still not justifiable. Civility is about the well-being of citizens; it is something from within. So, for a government to attempt to create a façade of civility with the lives of Lagosians as sacrifice as share wickedness.
No race on earth is averse to rowdiness. After Hurricane Sandy struck, we all saw, on CNN, how many Americans were looting shops and fighting over groceries. When the survival of any human is threatened, he forgets civility and FIGHTS for his/her life. This is the situation majority of the hawkers have found themselves. They are not foolish to not know that they risk their lives on the road. They are people are the lowest level of life where you either fight to live or you die.
It is easy for us to clamour for a civil environment, but at what and whose cost?
It is so unfortunate that the enlightened and educated among us – the middle class, who are supposed to be the ones that reason objectively to support or oppose government policies are actually suffering from colonial mentality, pride, hypocrisy and selfishness. We often believe that anything done in the developed world is appropriate and should be replicated verbatim in Nigeria. It is worst level of poor esteem! Nigeria’s (especially Lagos’) middle class is perhaps the most selfish globally. Once a policy does not directly affect us and it appears civil, we support it or simply keep quiet.
The Way Forward
Enforcing penalties against street hawking and buying is putting the cart before the horse. The government should concentrate on creating environments that will boost the economy first before cracking down on street hawking.
Nigerians are not animals as the government often tries make us appear – to cover up their failures. People are fighting to live. Road and bridge constructions should be secondary to direct investment in citizens’ enlightenment, education, food production and health. Without prioritizing these areas, development cannot be sustainable. The quality of the people using the infrastructures is far more important that the infrastructures. The vision of Lagos state need be reengineered.
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