Priscilla Ediare, Ado-Ekiti
Recently, Ekiti State government placed a ban on street trading, display of wares on walkways and roads, and indiscriminate parking of vehicles on the roadside in the state. But the ban has triggered a controversy all over the state, especially in the capital, Ado-Ekiti.
Before the development, traders and shop owners, especially in the markets, displayed their wares on walkways, leaving almost nothing in their shops. Some other traders usually converted the sidewalks to stands to dry their vegetables, pepper, melon and other food items such that pedestrians had little access to navigate through the walkways.
More disturbing was the uncultured mannerisms exhibited by some motorists who parked on the road, obstructing free flow of traffic. Some would leave their vehicles on the roads for days. Some used theirs for mobile marketing on the roads, while others abandoned their vehicles that had been involved in accidents on the road for days.
This, it was noted, had been causing serious gridlocks in the state. Car crashes had also been recorded on many occasions. Government stated that such was also causing security risks and abetting criminality on the roads.
In the light of these, the state government recently announced that street traders must quit the roads, while vehicle owners can no longer leave their vehicles on the road in any part of the state.
However, the stance of the state government did not go down well with those affected by the ban. Traders and some residents have accused the government of insensitivity to their poor condition. They urged the government to provide viable alternatives and to ensure that the law is enforced on indigenes and non-indigenes without discrimination.
Many of the traders said the government wanted to raise its internally-generated revenue (IGR) without putting into consideration the consequences such actions would have on poor people who could not afford to rent shops.
Some who were not indigenes of Ekiti have also claimed that the enforcement of the street trading laws was being effected only on non-indigenes, alleging that the government officials have been sparing indigenous street traders.
Moreover, the reporter discovered that it has been business as usual in many of the streets, especially those in marketplaces. Many street traders still display their wares with impunity, obstructing the walkways and roads, while law enforcement operatives simply look the other way.
Mr. Chukwudi Sunday, who sells on the road, lamented his plight. He accused the government officials of treating indigenes as if they were above the law.
His words: “The indigenes still display their wares on the roads, while the non-indigenes are prevented from doing so. When the officials come around, the indigenes challenge them. And they are left alone.
“But, the reverse is the case for the non-indigenes. Anyone caught selling will have his goods seized.
“They instructed us to go to Awedele Market, a place that is not well developed. By the time you spend one week there, you would have spent all your capital because there will be no sales there. I wish the government can give us a better place, like the Oja Oba Market, for us to manage for now.”
Mrs. Sharon Alade, a roadside groceries seller, said government should have provided a viable alternative for traders before sending them packing from the streets.
“They should provide suitable alternatives for us, especially near the markets. They should not take us to the outskirts of the town. We voted for them in the election.
“There is a government land near Atikankan area, which has been wasting away for years. Government should develop it for us,” she said.
But to Mr. Favour Nduka, a businessman, the ban placed on roadside trading is a very good idea. He added that the development would ensure safety of both human lives and goods.
He said: “Trading on the roadside is not safe at all. In the event of vehicles having brake failures, anything could happen to their lives and goods. So, it is a good preventive measure on the part of the government.”
Seun Ifetayo, who resides in the state capital, also applauded the ban. Her words: “The ban on roadside trading is a good idea. But I am against the ban of vehicles on roadsides. What do you say of a person who parks to assist a known person? Or parks to make or receive a call? Or parks to attend to a faulty vehicle? What is the essence of the ban without a simultaneous provision for a parking lot in the state?”
Another resident, Apostle Adebayo Romiluyi, said the ban on street trading was a good development. But he would never support the ban on the parking of vehicles on the road.
“The ban on vehicles cannot be described as a good idea,” he said. “There are no parking spaces in the state. Will a vehicle not stop because there is an order to tow vehicles? What becomes the fate of a non-resident who stops his car to ask for directions?”
But Commissioner for Information, Tourism and Values Orientation, Aare Muyiwa Olumilua, said the Ekiti State government decided to ensure that the right things were done by the people.
“Most of those trading on the streets trade on the sidewalks. The sidewalks were not made for trading. They were made for people to walk on, so they wouldn’t walk on the roads where the cars drive. So, when you take over the sidewalks and turn them to market stalls, that means you are denying people the purpose for which the sidewalks were constructed.
“First and foremost, you are putting those people at a security disadvantage. You are putting them at risk. Secondly, we have had situations where cars lost control, maybe brake failures or loss of concentration by the driver. The car ploughs straight into the crowd on the sidewalks. People get killed, some get injured, and wares are destroyed. So, these measures are to secure the lives and property of our people.
“In any sane society, people do not trade on the roads and sidewalks. Now that the government wants to clean up our streets and make them safer, people should not see it as government trying to make their business environment difficult.
“Now, they have been instructed to go to Awedele Market or Agric Olope. They should stop complaining that those places are not business- friendly areas. When people want to buy something, people will go there. But you have to move there before people would come. Not everybody can be accommodated in the city centre. It will cause congestion, disrupt traffic flow and so many other things. I also want to make it clear that Ekiti State government will never discriminate against non-indigenes.”
He also explained the ban on the indiscriminate parking of vehicles this way: “It is not proper to park just anywhere. People who park indiscriminately disrupt the flow of traffic. The thing about us in Nigeria to a large extent is that we really do not know the value of time. Someone who lives in America or Europe, who is paid by the hour, knows how important one minute is to their lives. They calculate productivity based on man hours. But it is not so here in Nigeria.
“Those who park indiscriminately waste people’s time, and time is money. They too can cause some security risks somewhere along the line. If you park indiscriminately and your vehicle is arrested, don’t blame the government.
“Some claim that government is using it to raise its revenue. Well, so what? In America, I know clearly that one of the highest forms of revenue for most cities is parking tickets and that is why you have policemen all over the place. They catch you for running a red light, dangerous driving, over-speeding, you will be fined. So, if we do it in Nigeria, why not? It will serve two purposes. One, raise revenue for the state, and, two, stop people from doing it. Because, by the time you are fined two, three times, you won’t pray for such again. They are measures to bring sanity into the system. We will see to the suggestion of having road lines to indicate where to and where not to park. We will see to it, because fair is fair.”