Hawking on Nigerian highways has become a norm despite effort by government at all levels to combat the menace.
It could be recalled that some years ago, the Lagos State Government came up with the Kick Against Indiscipline, KAI, to enforce the ban on hawking on its roads.
Also, a tribunal was set up to prosecute hawkers who flout the law. Despite these government attempts, hawking on major highways and expressways has surprising increased instead of a reduction.
The increase in highway hawking has drawn concerns from residents in Lagos as it has become rampant to see teenagers selling wares on Nigerian major roads.
It is not uncommon to see little kids that are supposed to be in school hawking on traffic prone highways in the country such as the Ondo-Ore road, Lagos-Abeokuta expressway, Lagos-Ibadan road and the ever busy Lagos road networks.
Commenting on why there has been unabated increase in the number of people, especially teens and kids, hawking on Lagos highways in spite of government effort to curb the menace, Mr Victor Ogbonaya, a hawker in Berger area, said the high cost of renting a shop in Lagos and the high volumes of sales they make on the streets and highways are some of the reasons they go against the laws.
The 34-year-old added that the need to bring their wares closer to passerby, motorists and passengers also make them embrace hawking on the expressways.
“Nobody wants to pay high amount for shops and sit down all day without making sales. We sell more on the highway than when we stay in our shops,” he said.
On the effects of highway hawking in Lagos State, Mr Taiwo Azeez, 32, a civil servant in Lagos, stated that one of the main causes of traffic gridlock in Lagos is the careless manner at which hawkers run across moving vehicles.
He stated that as a result of this, drivers would be made to pull their brakes abruptly to avoid running them over.
“Most times, it is not the bad state of the roads or the queues at various filling stations that cause traffic but hawkers that run across the highways like they own the road.
“They don’t move away from oncoming vehicles because they believe that the drivers should be human enough to pull brake,” Taiwo stated.
In an attempt to explain his position that hawkers don’t value their lives, the civil servant shared an encounter he had with a hawker recently.
He said: “On my way from Alausa last Friday with my brother by the passenger side as we headed to Dopemu.
“As we were about heading towards Iyana-Ipaja from the Airport Bridge, a young boy suddenly ran across my vehicle. Though I pulled the brake, it was rather late as I have already hit him.
“What baffled me was that when we got down from my car to help him, the young boy was more concern about his pack of sausage rolls, popularly called Gala, which was already rolling freely under the tyres of other road users.
“We took him to a nearby hospital and he was treated for a minor injury. It was shocking to discover that the cost of all his wares that made him to risk his life on a highway did not worth N3, 000.”
A more disturbing implication of highway hawking as explained by Mr Jetawo Anthony is that most of the hawkers on the highway are robbers disguising to be trading on the highway but with ulterior motive of robbing unsuspecting motorists and their passengers.
Mr Jetawo opined further that sometimes most of the highway hawkers act as informants to notorious armed robbers on the highways.
“They would approach your car pretending to be hawkers or beggars, while they survey your vehicles to see if you have valuables such as bags, phones, wrist watches and other jewelleries.They would go and inform robbers who would later attack you in traffic.
“Those are the criminals that walk up to your car when you are stuck in traffic and point a gun at you,” Jetawo stated.
Mrs Temitope Williams, a commuter in Lagos, said hawkers on highway or on the expressways most times sells fake goods or expired products to their customers in moving vehicles.
She said: I don’t usually patronise hawkers on highways because if they don’t make away with your change then they must have sold to you contraband products.”
Mrs Sherifat Shittu, 33, explained how she was almost kidnapped along on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway after they patronised some hawkers.
“On our travelling to Ibadan recently, it was discovered that those who ate the fruits we bought from hawkers on our way, slept off throughout the journey.
“It was one of the passengers who raised an alarm when his friend did not wake up at the garage.
“It was later discovered that the hawkers had collided with the driver to poison the fruits they sold to us in order to put all the passengers to sleep.
“Their plan was to drive us to unknown destination where we would have been used for rituals,” Sherifat narrated.
Speaking with a hawker, Sahid Naheem, 21, a handkerchief seller, he blamed the high cost of securing a shop in Lagos as one of the reasons most of them are hawking on the highways.
He however, calls on the government to provide an affordable sales stand for them in order to reduce the risk they face when they hawk on the highways.
While admitting the fact that there are armed robbers among them, Sahid said such people are usually dealt with whenever they are identified.
Mr. Enitan Oshodi , the Commissioner for Youth, Sports & Social Development in Lagos state, recently said the ministry is ready to provide necessary support and create a befitting job for as many hawkers that are ready to make themselves available to the ministry.