There is traffic everywhere in the world. But you just cannot help but love the Lagos traffic. It’s as insane as a mad dog and as sane as a mild ram.
One of the things that strike yours truly is how Lagos traffic builds up, and from where the hawkers emerge. You never seem to know. It is an entirely booming economy on its own. A whole life completely.
This phenomenon has become part of a city-state seeking to become a mega city, whenever it actually frees itself from the claws of the hawk(s) holding it down. Did you actually read that? Never mind.
All over the streets of Lagos, you’ll find one form of hawking or another. But on the highways, you see the real hustle.
Recently, while trying to find my way back home along a busy highway, suddenly traffic began to build up. Meanwhile, my significant other had just called to inform me of the absence of traffic on that particular road. But, lo, there it was. No way out. And then all of a sudden, the hawkers wielding various wares moved from one row to another.
The question I asked was, from where did these guys come out on a long bridge. Who is their informant? What? How? I still search for answers.
However, it is not impossible that they monitor Lagos traffic on radio through their handsets.
On Lagos traffic, you can be sure to find many things ranging from designer clothes to mirrors, electronics and accessories, literature of any kind, spectacles, wrist watches, snacks, drinks and other groceries, as well as toiletries. You’ll even get cars in traffic for sale – there are vehicles with ‘for sale’ pasted on their windscreens with contact telephone numbers.
This phenomenon has proven to be a money-spinner, and a source of employment to numerous migrants from across the country. The risk involved has not deterred many from engaging in it.
Youths from all over the country throng Lagos almost on daily basis for greener pasture. These ones swell the army of operators in the transitory shopping mall.
Now, there are those who resist the idea of taking these able-bodied sales men and women off the road with all their might. Some people don’t ever want hawking eradicated, as it is cheaper to operate than paying for a space at the conventional mall.
They don’t have to pay rent. Most of the times what they do is to run after vehicles in motion. In terms of capital, these hawkers don’t need too much capital. In fact, they need next to nothing, just the spirit and strength to do the business. There are suppliers who give out goods to these hustlers with or without deposits. It’s an economy on its own.
Irrespective of the policies by various governments to take these hawkers off the roads, they have grown in leaps and continue to evolve with changing governments, policies and times.
One of the beautiful sides to this phenomenon is their movement or transition. This is in terms of places and wares. They move from one place to another and trade in different goods from time to time, which is also dependent on weather and season, and maybe law enforcement agents. They move about wherever they find traffic gridlock and anywhere their goods will sell. They are not stationary. Always on the move.
Some motorists have gone as far as alleging that these hawkers create traffic jams by potholling road portions, so their business could boom.
Even as a lot of people, the elite, don’t buy the idea of hawking or street trading, it won’t be going away any time soon. It seems Lagos can’t do without these elements. They might be informal, but they are a part of Lagos sight.
Many people look forward to buying from these hawkers. Without patronage, these traders won’t be anywhere near our roads.
Traffic trading, street hawking and roadside trading are risky ventures. More so, none of them can be sustainable.
Innovation can be introduced into the informal trade. Like Oyo State Governor Seyi Makinde reportedly espoused, governments can consider taking steps gradually, and firstly providing an alternative place for them before taking them off the roads and streets.
It may be difficult to implement, as no government has successfully done so. Any policy aimed at taking these people off the roads should not be without a human face.
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