The Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) has launched a war against street hawking and trading on pedestrian bridges and roadside markets. But those who indulge in these practices are adamant. CALEB ONWE reports
n recent years, the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) has been constructing modern markets across the satellite towns to ensure that those interested in trading had shops where they could display their wares in designated places and attract customers. The idea is to eliminate hawking and street trading, reduce traffic at road intersections, as well as keep the environment clean.
In spite of these laudable efforts, there has been a lot of resistance, especially from the petty traders. A tour round the satellite towns of Kubwa, Dawaki, Dutse and Gwarinpa revealed that whereas the markets constructed by the government are largely unoccupied, petty traders are always doing their businesses by the road sides and on top of the pedestrian bridges on the major highways.
These illegal markets are usually at their peak in the evenings and one could easily identify them by the crowds that build up around major bus stops and around the pedestrian bridges.
The roadsides evening markets usually start from around 3.00pm when petty traders move their goods to the various bus stops, where they target civil servants returning from work and other residents who may not want to go to the formal neighbourhood markets to purchase their needs.
Apart from the fact that these street trading activities obstruct the flow of traffic, the traders litter the environment and often degrade and deface the well paved roads and bridges.
Inside Abuja gathered that those vested with the responsibility of traffic management in FCT are even more worried because the activities of the traders were compounding the naughty traffic challenge which they are working hard to address.
Chairman of the FCT Ministerial Task Team on Traffic Management, Mr. Ikharo Attah, admitted that it had been very tasking trying to keep these traders off the bus stops and pedestrian bridges.
Attah, who noted that the interest of few roadside traders will never be allowed to prevail over the collective desires of many residents to get to their destinations in good time, vowed that the rules must be enforced and sanity restored across Abuja.
According to him, residents were too often trapped in an disturbing traffic due to the unnecessary blockade created by traders.
He hinted that more stringent measures were being worked out to completely evacuate traders from roadsides, pedestrian bridges and other illegal spots.
Attah also expressed disappointment that the traders who were dislodged from the popular NNPC Junction in Kubwa and offered free spaces at the Maitama Modern Market, to stay without paying any rent for the period of six months while permanent arrangement would be perfected for them, had bluntly refused to accept the palliative measure.
“When you go around, you will discover that most of the markets in the neighbourhood are empty because these traders prefer to sell by the roadside where they target workers who don’t want to go inside the market.
“We don’t take delight in seizing traders’ wares, but we have to enforce the rules to make Abuja what it should be. We cannot deploy our officials to mount security at those places forever but we have to take some strong measures which I may not disclose here. I can assure you that very soon, you won’t see people sell on the pedestrian bridges,” he said.
Inside Abuja learnt that it was because of traffic obstruction that the burgeoning roadside market at NNPC Junction, Kubwa was dislodged recently. The Task Team also cleared the roadside traders around the newly constructed Maitama Modern Market located very close to the NYSC Orientation camp, Kubwa.
“During the traffic clean up exercise, we removed sundry nuisances at the NNPC and NYSC Junctions at Kubwa. Specifically, we removed wooden slabs used by the roadside that sell on top of drainages.
“What shocked me most is the fact that a good number of the traders selling on the road for years own shops inside the market but prefer to sell on the road,” he said.
Attah warned the traders against returning to the road saying, “the rot in this area must not be allowed to return since the minister is demonstrating a strong political will to address traffic problems across the city.”
He disclosed that some roads that were converted to market places over the years have been reclaimed and over 800 petty traders moved into the market.
Inside Abuja sought the view of the traders on why they usually preferred to remain by the roadsides when there are empty shops inside the markets. While some of the petty traders claimed that they cannot afford to rent shops at the various markets around their areas, others said, they make more sales by the roadside, and do not have to worry about shop rent.
At the risk of their lives, these traders always try to outsmart the enforcement task force team who constantly raid the illegal markets with the help of security operatives.
According to the street hawkers, the hazards inherent in their activities can’t deter them from continuing with their businesses because their survival depends on it.
Inside Abuja‘s investigation showed that many of them have suffered unquantifiable losses each time their wares were impounded by the task force team. In some cases, many were reportedly killed by careless motorists but the survivors have remained resilient.
At Bannex Junction, Wuse 2, some women who usually go about with their little infants stripped on their back while hawking bottled groundnut and banana, said they do that to evoke sympathy from potential buyers and task force agents.
One of the women, who refused to give her name, said she comes all the way from Mpape village with her little baby to sell banana and groundnut every day.
While she claimed ignorance of the health implications of exposing an eight-month-old to vehicle fumes and other deadly environmental pollution, she noted that all she needed was financial independence.
At the Dawaki pedestrian bridge along Kubwa road, Sule Mustapha, who sells footwear, admitted that he owns a shop at Dawaki village, but makes more sales whenever he comes to the evening roadside market.
Mustapha doesn’t want to think of the risk involved in displaying his wares by the roadside. All he cares is how to make more money to cater for his family.
A young man, who simply identified himself as Joseph and sells clothes at the popular AYA junction, Asokoro, disagreed vehemently that roadside traders was the problem of traffic gridlock in Abuja.
Joseph, who displays his wares on the pedestrian walk way, claimed that he has no shop anywhere because he couldn’t afford anyone. According to him, he survives the economic crunch by what he gets from the roadside market. He urged the government to do more to empower the youths and stop disturbing those who are struggling to make a living.