Unlike Lagos state, Cross River state wants to make street hawking legal, showing a rare appreciation for Nigeria’s poverty level in a country where political leadership equates banning of the poor’s makeshift means of livelihood to development. The state governor Prof. Ben Ayade has already sent a bill to that effect before his state legislature. If that sails through, the governor staid, Cross River will become the first in Nigeria to provide legislative framework aimed at aiding street hawking, instead of stifling or criminalizing it.
The governor was talking to newsmen at the Executive Chambers in Calabar on this, yesterday. He said: “I have sent the Hawking Rights Bill to the House of Assembly to provide a regulatory framework that will provide the right to hawk. You cannot tell a man not to sell his goods on the streets because he cannot rent a store, yet you tell the man not to steal. Just provide a regulatory framework because to prohibit hawking is to tell a man that you don’t want him to eat.
‘’We are making provisions for a hawkers’ corridor. There must be a minimum age, you must be 18 and they must be seen to be properly dressed with reflective vests. They must have a time zone of when they come out, so as to be able to make optimal sales because we don’t want them to constitute nuisance in the environment.”
Ayade, who said that he was desperate to make a difference, added that Cross Riverians have a right to make an honest living within the ambit of the law, as there was no crime in making legitimate earnings from hawking as long as it was done under an effective regulatory framework.
“Prohibiting hawking is to tell a man that you don’t want to give him food, and you don’t also want him to steal, it is unfair. They have a right to determine how to live as long as it is within the ambit of the law. So, we are repealing anything that prohibits hawking in the state,” he added. The considerate stand from the Cross River governor is the exact opposite of what obtains in Lagos state, a state with a population of about 21 million people, whose governor told a live TV audience earlier this year that his administration would start jailing street hawkers/traders in July. The government has since made good on its promise, doubling down on its clampdown of Lagos residents who eke out a living by hawking in traffic. Men of the state enforcement agency, Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI), are seen regularly chasing after street traders, often times forcing the weaker ones among them into abandoning their wares while running to avoid being sent to jail.
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