Akwa Ibom: Street Trading In Uyo Metropolis: A Cause For Concern.
THE SUNDAY ARTICLE:
By Ubon Marcus.
Topic: Street Trading In Uyo Metropolis: A Cause For Concern.
Developing cities all over the world are usually confronted by a common problem: population explosion. A couple of reasons suffice for this, one of which is rural-urban migration.
As more people migrate to these city centers, as previous settlers and indigenes reproduce, population increases thereby exerting pressure on public facilities. The government usually responds by rehabilitating old infrastructure, providing new ones, and making sure her obligations to the citizenry are fulfilled.
Uyo the capital city of Akwa Ibom state has had its fair share of population induced challenges, one of which is street trading. As a matter of fact, the capital city is losing the aesthetic appeal it was known for few years ago. Residents are bothered that if concrete steps are not taken to address this anomaly, things could go south as these flashpoints could be used by criminals to perpetuate evil. Lagos is a case study in this regard, where motorists are frequently robbed during traffic congestion.
Nowadays while moving through Uyo metropolis one can easily observe that unapproved markets and trading points have been littered across the landscape of the city. The Ikot Oku Ikono junction popularly referred to Ekom Iman junction, State Secretariat by Abak road into Ibb avenue, the Goodluck Jonathan flyover at Idoro road by Atiku, Itam flyover, Urua Ekpa by Calabar-Itu, Ikot Ekpene road from Ibom connection to Ikpa road, Abak road by Qua Iboe church, and traffic light intersections are flashpoints in this regard.
Commuters and motorists are faced with great difficulty when moving across these points from 6pm each day as traders usually display their wares on the roadside with some of them occupying parts of the road. The situation is further worsened by keke riders and mini-bus drivers who also load and drop passengers at these points causing traffic congestion such as is usually witnessed along Ikot Ekpene road by Eka street just by Uniuyo fence which often causes a major traffic jam in the evenings along Ikot Ekpene road between Ibom connection and Eka street.
Major traffic light intersections are not left out also. Traders have taken over traffic light intersections across the city. The difference here is that unlike other flashpoints where wares are displayed on tables or on the floor, these ones are stationed on foot and have various wares ranging from consumables to keep the mouth busy to simple items needed for everyday usage which motorists and commuters often find difficult to resist.
These guys are quite hardworking and are ready to run across the road at the slightest sign of prospective patronage often putting themselves and other road users in harm’s way. Some of them are so bold and will knock on your car side glass if wound up and urge you to patronize them. They have a special way of pestering motorists and distracting them from observing traffic lights.
Some motorists get so occupied with them and fail to move when the light turns green thereby clogging traffic. This happens a lot nowadays. Commuters in keke and mini buses are also not spared as some of these traders rudely shove their wares in their faces and sometimes make uncomplimentary remarks at ladies.
Beggars and all sort of hustlers have joined them as commuters are often subjected to ear bursting songs and other unpleasant sounds until they part with some cash. For me a group of underage boys who wash windscreens make the most interesting aspect of traffic light experience in Uyo.
The moment you apply your brakes these guys emerge from nowhere and like a well-rehearsed movie script they jump on your bonnet, raise the wipers and wash the windscreen even if you are just coming out of a carwash. While this is going on someone else takes care of the rear glass.
Thereafter they hang onto your vehicle calling you daddy, mummy, uncle, or any amusing name until you give them some money. These guys are so focused on what they do that they ignore pleas from some motorists who tell them not to wash their windscreens apparently because of the effect of detergents on windscreens. You just cannot help wondering where their parents are.
Should this be regarded as a problem? Is there anything wrong in these set of people sourcing for their daily bread? Apparently not. Each person has a right to livelihood. However, our daily pursuits should not affect the harmony and orderliness of the universe. It therefore becomes a problem once that line is crossed.
The increasing practice of street trading in Uyo metropolis poses a lot of problems for the traders themselves and the society at large. Permit me to enumerate some of them.
1. Safety: how safe is it to sell or buy wares by the roadside? What if a vehicle experiences break failure? What if an accident occurs, will the traders and their customers not become casualties? For instance, there have been cases of tankers and heavy duty vehicles falling at Ikot Oku Ikono junction. How safe are the roadside traders there?
2. Crime: motorists and commuters are worried that someday soon; they could become victims of robberies at traffic congestion and traffic lights as is usually the case in Lagos. The plethora of activities at these spots provides a cover for criminals as they immediately mix with the crowd to avoid being easily spotted by security agents.
How can this situation be salvaged?
I am aware that successive administrations in the state have tried to address this situation. New roads have been constructed, public infrastructure revamped, markets created, motor parks relocated, and so on. A lot has been done already but more still needs to be done.
Residents of the city and the traders themselves are also not helping matters. As a matter of fact, it is a case of hypocrisy. The masses on the one hand complain about this problem but on the other hand, they condemn the government whenever her officials adopt a tough measure to relocate these traders who are usually non-compliant with government.
Not too long ago, the Uyo Capital City Development Authority (UCCDA) demolished illegal markets within the metropolis. This happened during one of the monthly sanitation exercises observed in the state. This move was condemned by many. “How can government be so heartless towards these poor traders” they lamented. None of them saw the bigger picture and the anomaly that agency was trying to correct. Trust our people, those structures came back to life almost immediately and business continues till date.
This writer is also aware that sometime ago the Hon. Commissioner for Works, Akparawa Ephraim Inyang in one of his project inspection tours stopped by Ikot Oku Ikono junction where he interacted with the traders urging them to vacate the place to designated trading areas. Have they complied? I am also aware that Commissioners for Environment and Transport respectively have tried to handle this issue.
This is a challenge for both the government and the people. I believe that a renewed partnership between both parties will provide a lasting solution to this problem. Perhaps a legislation to address contemporary realities in this regard may be necessary.
Thank you for reading.
Comrade Ubon Marcus,
February 4, 2018.
(Ubon Marcus is a public affairs commentator)