Against the backdrop of FCTA’s increased strictness in banning street hawking in Abuja by constituting a task force committee headed by Joseph Mbu, the FCT Commissioner of Police, AWAAL GATA weighs the reasons that would make the total ban of the menace a onerous task
Abuja, being the capital of the country, ought to look like other capitals across the world in terms of “sanity” and keeping to the master plan.
Since the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) established the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) in 1989, the board has been enhancing and keeping the “sanity” in the city.
Seemingly, during the tenure of Malam Nasir el-Rufai as the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), the board was given more responsibilities as street hawking, commercial motorcycles, among others, were banned, and it was the responsibility of the officials of the board to make sure that the public complied to the ban.
To stop street hawking, officials of the board are usually seen on the streets confiscating and destroying wares of the nabbed hawkers. Some are even arrested and detained, just to make them comply to the law.
But most times, it is not the hawkers that were not arrested but who are supposed to take deterrence from their arrested colleagues and stop hawking in order not to get arrested like them, they would continue their business and even the ones that were arrested and detained go back to the same business without the fear of being re-arrested.
Blueprint had reported the way street hawkers evade AEPB officials. Some were even chased to their graves while evading them; for instance, Halima Jibrin, a 14-year-old boiled groundnut hawker was crushed to death by a speeding car last year around NICON Junction as she tried to run away from the officials.
In the same vein, in January, a Fulani hawker of fermented milk (nono), was crushed to death around the Secretariat as she tried to evade the officials.
Coupled with the fact that many of the hawkers have lose their prized wares to the AEPB officials, in a normal circumstance, these deaths should have discouraged the hawkers from continuing their business, but their population is rather surging vigorously.
Recently, the Minister of FCT, Sen. Bala Mohammed, constituted a task force, which is headed by the territory’s Commissioner of Police, Joseph Mbu, to, among other menaces, enhance total compliance to the ban against street hawking.
With Mbu already reading riot act to the perpetrators, the question on the lips of many resident is: “Can Mbus’s committee completely ban street hawking in the FCT?”
Speaking on the issue, Mr. Isa Mohammed, a resident of Wuse 2, said no amount of force can stop street hawking in Abuja, because the hawkers have no other ways of eking out a living.
He said if they had other means, it would have been easier.
According to him, some of them are ready to die in the course of putting food on their tables.
“No amount of force can stop street hawking in Abuja, because that is their life. They can’t eat until they hawk, so some of them are ready to die in the course of looking for what to eat,” he said.
Mrs. Evelyn Makinwa, an Abuja-based human rights activist, corroborated Mohammed’s saying that no amount of force can stop hawker from selling their wares on the streets of Abuja.
She was, however, with the view that if the authorities do not want to see hawkers on the streets, they should provide them with employments.
According to her, “in developed countries, if the government brings up a policy, it provides alternatives but that is not the reality in Nigeria; you said you don’t want hawkers to hawk on the street, then give them jobs or give them free shops to sell their wares.”
Mrs. Makinwa added that “the residents should expect clashes between security operatives and the hawkers soon, if the FCTA wants to enhance total ban of street hawking in the FCT.”
Nevertheless, in an interview with Blueprint, a banana hawker who pleaded for anonymity, said she was ready to be killed by whosoever that wants to stop her from hawking her banana.
She said “my kids are in school, I pay their fees with the banana that I sell. I can’t watch my children not going to school. If anyone wants to stop me, the person should feed us and also pay my kids’ school fees.
“I have had a lot of clashes with AEPB men, so I am ready for any kind of police or soldiers that want to come. If they want a beautiful city, the should end the poverty that is disturbing us in this country.”