Lagos govt, police battle street hawkers, traffic robbers

Lagos govt, police battle street hawkers, traffic robbers

For those salesmen vending assorted items in Lagos traffic, some hard times are just by the corner. The authorities in Lagos State say they will soon bare their fangs on street traders.
The sight of the slightest traffic jam on Lagos roads is, surely, a prayer answered for street hawkers. They surface from nowhere to
cash in on the unpalatable experience for their own benefits. As long as the traffic lasts, the hawkers, young and old, male and female, lay siege to the road and freely sell their commodities. The heavier the gridlock, the happier they get.
In the traffic on any major road in Lagos, you see hawkers of every item, including machetes, knives, assorted alcoholic drinks, recharge cards, shoe racks, live chickens and such items.
For the Lagos State government and many residents, more worrisome are the several reports on the activities of persons who masquerade as hawkers and beggars during the day, especially in traffic, but whose sole aim is to perpetrate evil and rob unsuspecting motorists and commuters of their valuables.
Aside from the far-reaching implication of street trading in terms of accidents, which are fatal in most cases, street trading also affects the free flow of traffic in the metropolis as well as contradicts the environmental sanitation laws. Such hawkers and their customers litter the roads with waste, it was gathered.
The Lagos government has repeatedly vowed to rid the state of street trading by fully enforcing the provisions of the law restricting that kind of trade.
Section one of the Street Trading and Illegal Market Prohibition Law 2003, restricts street trading and hawking in the metropolis. Sections seven and eight of the same law gives jurisdiction and power to the special court to order the seizure and public auction of items impounded from street traders. Section 10 of the law prescribes a N5000 fine or three months imprisonment upon conviction.
Despite several warnings by the government that the hawkers should be safety conscious, steer clear of the streets and ensure they seek for spaces in various markets designated for trading in the state, the act has continued unabated.
A young man in his early 20s, only identified as Chisom, was a popular sausage roll hawker around the 7UP/Tollgate area of Lagos. He bought a commercial yellow bus, commonly called danfo, in less than one year of selling in traffic. His swift success raised so many questions within his neighbourhood, but the new bus owner attributed his breakthrough to hard work and God’s favour. However, in a quick succession, there was a dramatic turnaround in Chisom’s story. He was paraded by the police on the television after he was allegedly caught during a robbery in the state.
Similarly, sometime in 2011, a young boy was caught in the dead hour of the night, using a digger to expand a pothole at Dopemu bus stop on the Lagos Abeokuta Expressway. A mobile police officer was said to have sighted the small boy while he was driving at the other side of the road to Oshodi. Upon the officer’s enquiry, the young boy explained that he was filling the road, but further checks by the curious policeman confirmed his suspicion that the boy was doing more harm to the already affected portion. The boy later confessed to be a hawker in traffic.                                                                                                                                             Perturbed by the unhealthy development, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode recently said after an emergency Security Council Meeting, which he chaired, it had become evident that traffic crimes and robbery were mostly as a result of the menace of okada riders and street hawkers. He said his government would not allow a few notorious elements to cause a breakdown in law and order and upset the peace that the state had enjoyed over the years.
Ambode urged residents to cooperate with the government at all times, just as he warned them against the dangers of patronising street hawkers. He assured that the government was working hard to curtail their activities.
“The next hawker could be a robber or terrorist. You are now well advised. If we all cooperate and decide not to buy, gradually and collectively, the hawkers will not come to the highways and streets anymore. We have already hit the ground running. I’m deeply concerned about the issues that Lagosians are sending back to me, and the issues range from security issues, gridlock and the environment itself. Our roads will definitely become safer,” he stated.  Some days back in the wee hours of the day, operatives of the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) of Lagos Police Command arrested three ex-convicts for traffic robbery in Oshodi. The robbery suspects – Adekunle Mustapha, 21, Popoola Olumide, 20, and Femi Amusa, 20 –  were arrested, following a tip off from their victim, Olasunkanmi Oyelakin, who alerted the police that his blackberry phone was stolen by the suspects during the early morning traffic around Bolade, Oshodi.
The victim told the Police: “I was on my way to Ajah at about 6.30am; I saw Adekunle Mustapha pass by the bus I boarded. There was a traffic jam. As I brought out my phone, Mustapha took it from me through the bus window and ran away. I noticed that he had regrouped with his friends. I knew I couldn’t handle the three of them all alone, so I informed the RRS operatives, who followed me down to the place where he was arrested.”
Also, men of the RRS apprehended Timothy Ojomandu, 22, alleged to be a member of a three-man syndicate who attacks and robs law-abiding motorists around the Mile 2 area of the state. The suspect was recently caught in the act at about 7.30pm, by the policemen, who responded to a distress call made by a victim – the driver of a Mitsubishi Canter with registration number, FKJ 676 XF. But that was after the suspect and his gang members had successfully stolen one carton of cell battery from the truck that was fully loaded.
The lorry driver, Mr. Ajiboye Mogaji, who accompanied the suspect to the RRS Headquarters at Alausa, told the police that he sighted the suspect from the side mirror of his vehicle when he sneaked in through the back of the truck, but he pretended as if he didn’t see him.  Hear him: “While inside the truck, he passed one carton to his partner, who was moving beside the vehicle. I rushed down on motion. However, when his partner saw me alight from the vehicle, he absconded with that one carton but I held the suspect by his trousers when he wanted to jump down from the truck. Then, I shouted for help and the policemen from RRS, who were patrolling the area responded swiftly to the distress call.”
In the same vein, the RRS men on August 25, apprehended one Tijani Taofeek, 26, suspected to be a member of a gang that robs in traffic around Ojota. The operatives acted on incessant complaints from motorists and pedestrians plying the roads, many of whom had been victims of this criminal act on many occasions.
The suspect, who hails from Ogbomosho in Oyo State, said that he was a bus conductor, and that the income from his job was no longer sufficient for him.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of the Environment, Mr. Oluwatoyin Onisarotu, also warned that traders that did not abide by the state environmental sanitation law would henceforth be seriously dealt with.
In his words: “It is disheartening to see how our major roads and highways like Apapa – Oshodi Expressway, Ikorodu Road, Agege Motor Road, Victoria Island, Ikoyi – Obalende, Ojuelegba – Stadium, Surulere, Oyingbo, Carter Bridge, Idumota, Oshodi, Ketu, Mile 12, Third Mainland Bridge, Cele, Iyana-Ipaja, Agbado Oke-Odo, Airport Road, Ikeja, among others have been converted to illegal markets.”
Many residents of Lagos are also worried by the menace caused by some street traders, who display their wares close to the main road, especially at most of the busy bus stops. Their illegal activities usually lead to heavy traffic on the road, causing motorists untold agony.
Chairman of the State Task Force on Environmental and Other Special Offences (Enforcement Unit), Mr. Olubukola Abe, told newsmen in Lagos recently that activities of the hawkers actually added to traffic congestion on the highways.
“We are putting a searchlight on this trend and one way to do that is to ensure that we take pre-emptive measures to forestall this development,” he said.
Aside from the criminal aspect of street trading, Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni, warned of the possible health hazards of patronising such hawkers. He cited the recent arrest of five men who were caught by operatives of the RRS, selling adulterated plastic table water and coca-cola.
“The law on street trading also affects its patrons. People should stop patronising street hawkers,” the police boss warned.


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