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Traders dare govt, take over Ilorin streets.

Alowonle Ibrahim in his late 20s, a taxi driver was fortunate not to knock a pedestrian down at the ever-busy post office market area penultimate Tuesday. He was lamenting that traders no longer give right of way as he wanted to park to pick a passenger.

A middle age woman was busy meandering round the wares and goods spread on the walkway and extended to the main road: “These traders I don’t know if they are the ones paying for the road or we transporters.”

Mustapha Yusuf, a civil servant, got his vehicle stuck in the traffic jam caused by pedestrians trying to buy from the street. It was the help of traffic officers who bailed him out by scattering the wares before there was temporary relief of free movement of vehicles in Challenge area of Murtala Muhammed Way, Ilorin.

An ambulance carrying accident victims too was not spared as they were held in the traffic for over 25 minutes before the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) operatives bailed them out by clearing the road. This and many other ugly situations characterised the activities of traders in some of the major streets in Ilorin thereby causing hardship to other road users.

The traders’ attitude in spreading their goods and wares attracted lots of complaints both at the Ministry of Environment and Forestry and the Kwara State Environmental protection Agency (KWEPA), and various strategies were mapped out but the traders remained adamant.

Only last week, a combined team of policemen and operatives of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), chased away make shift shop owners and hawkers, who occupied walkways and road setbacks around the Post Office area and major streets of Ilorin for their business activities.

The affected traders who were into clothing materials, foot wears and fruits among others, had taken over the pedestrian way ignoring earlier warnings prohibiting display of goods and wares on the walkways.

The indiscriminate display of wares on the walkways and setbacks around the post office and its environs was impeding free movement of pedestrians and passersby using the facilities. With display of goods and wares, many of the traders and hawkers made easy passage on the facilities practically impossible, thus compelling people to raise the alarm.

In response to complaints, the task force set up by government swooped on the traders and hawkers. It confiscated wares of some defiant traders, who returned to same spot after several warnings to vacate.

It appeared the traders and hawkers were unperturbed. They would regroup and display their wares after the task force might have left the area. Government was, however, concerned about the attitude of the traders, who were creating environmental nuisance and causing needless stress to the pedestrians.

Daily Sun was informed that government was aware of the adverse effects of chasing the traders and hawkers away completely because their livelihood largely depended on their businesses. A source said the affected traders were only asked not to indiscriminately display their goods and wares on walkways owning to the inconveniences created for pedestrians.

The Commissioner for Environment and Forestry, Mr. Amos Sayo, said government was mindful of the fact that the means of livelihood of the affected traders depend on the business activities on the walkways. He regretted that the display of goods and wares was hampering free movement of people, saying the ministry would station some officers on the walkways to serve as permanent measure in discouraging display of good and wares:

“We have traders and hawkers on the walkways and for them to be there, they are trying to get their own sources of income. If you are somewhere where you are getting your source of income, for someone to dislodge you, it is not going to be easy.

“But the Ministry of Environment is doing its best in making sure that those people do not hawk or display their goods on the walkways. There are some that they have driven back after our people left, they returned to the same spot.

“To dislodge some one from where he is making his own source of income, it is not always easy. They are there with the police and others. There are some of their goods they confiscated and brought to the office. For them to be able to get those goods back, they would have to pay certain amount of money.

“We will have to face the reality on ground. May be, what we are going to do is to fence certain part of the area, to make sure that after we might have dislodged them within one week we will go to other parts. But I pray they wouldn’t come back, because we don’t have enough men to do that. Immediately they don’t see security operatives, the traders come back to the same spot.”

An environmental expert, Saka Mohammed who retired from KWEPA, said: “The state government should not use kid gloves to threat this as the traders constitute environmental hazard on the road, apart from littering the road with dirt such as nylons, leaves and so on.

“Government should not wait for accident that takes life happen before they remove these traders. They should not be powerful than government. Also government can relocate them if they cannot obey the rule of hygiene.”

A legal practitioner, Bisi Atolagbe, advised government not to shy away from its responsibilities by setting up an environmental court to punish any trader disobeying the orderliness of the roads and streets. If traders were arrested and prosecuted, it would serve as a deterrent to others.

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