How Empowerment Programmes, Unclear Policies Failed To Reduce Street Hawking In Lagos (PART 1)

Unarguably, Lagos State Government has created several beneficiary programmes to support artisans and traders but these programmes have not completely eliminated street hawking within Lagos metropolis.

Nineteen years old Mariam has been hawking on Lagos streets for five years. Without being ignorant of the imminent dangers, she would plan her day to earn N10,000 daily to contribute to her education and provide other household needs.

Mariam had understudied her mother on how to convince drivers and pedestrians, with appealing rhymes, to buy her wares. She would sing sweet songs or alternatively scream loudly to get the attention of customers..

“My favourite day is when we have road traffic (congestion). Since people are exhausted, we sell more. I have become used to running and shouting. In fact, I have friends and customers on the road who buy from me daily. This money would be used to cater for my schooling, get clothes and any financial assistance I need,” she said.

Mariam jostles between hawking and schooling everyday. She is fully aware of the dangers on the street as she can recount several circumstances that happened to her friends, but this would not stop her from being on the street till the late hours.

Street hawking in Lagos State has become a visible alternative means of survival for low income earners. This practice, however, has matured into incorporating the unemployed, some fraction of the underemployed and artisanal entrepreneurs.

These harmless traders would place their wares on their heads, run after busses and cars to sell to passengers. With good knowledge of imminent dangers on the road, the first instinct of a street hawker is to sell whatsoever good to make returns and fulfil basic needs.

Products sold on the street are determined by the demands of commuters, time and place as well as the road traffic situation.

HumAngle findings revealed that the rapid growth in street hawking could be connected to multiple taxes, excessive billings, process of shop ownership and sanctions imposed by officials to extort shop owners.

A National Bureau of Statistics report says that 11 million “micro enterprises” in Lagos rely on street trading for income.

Trading and Illegal Marketing Act

In 2016, the governor of Lagos State, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode, revived Section 1 of the Lagos State Trading and Illegal Market Prohibition Law 2003. The law restricts street trading and hawking around the metropolis. 

This came after a street hawker, who tried to evade arrest by the state enforcement agency, was killed by a moving truck. The incident led to the destruction of 49 state-owned buses worth N139 million, by hoodlums. 

To enforce this, the Kick Against Indiscipline unit was empowered to arrest defaulters with a fine of N90,000 or six month jail-term for defaulters.  Multiple reactions trailed the governor’s order after hundreds of hawkers were arrested in just a few days.

As an alternative, Ambode employed hawkers to take advantage of the N25 million  Employment Trust Fund launched by his administration to provide soft loans for businesses.

LSETF will focus on promoting entrepreneurship by improving access to finance, strengthening the institutional capacity of MSMEs and formulating policies designed to improve the business environment in Lagos State,” the governor said.

With an interest rate of 5 per cent and no collateral, the target of LSETF was to support 100,000 MSMEs within four years.

After one year of establishment, the agency reported a 7 per cent scoreline (7,000 beneficiaries). In its 2019 Social Impact Assessment, LSETF reported that it had funded 28,057 MSMEs and added over 150,000 new tax payers to the state’s revenue net.

Between Empowerment and Hawking

HumAngle findings reveal that the process of hawking in Lagos streets is seemingly very easy. Since hawkers require no certificate of ownership, business registration, tax payment or guarantor,  it is almost easy for anyone to hawk on the street of Lagos.

However, to access funding from LSETF, “you must be a resident of Lagos, registered tax payer and have business or entrepreneurship skills. You would be required to provide your LASRA registration number, personal or company tax registration number, what you intend to use the money for, how you intend to pay back and guarantors who can stand for you,” Mr Akin Oyebode, the Executive Secretary of LSETF,  said.

Some street hawkers told HumAngle that the complexity of providing necessary requirements deterred them from accessing the loan.

“I would have loved to get a loan to start my drinks business but I don’t have all the requirements. To find a guarantor is very hard, especially in this kind of economy,” Mrs Blessing Ejioma explained.

Lagos State, with a N398 billion internally generated revenue in 2019  contributes 34.9 percent of unemployed and underemployed youths in Nigeria. This is because the state is known for industrialisation and with its growing population of over 14 million residents, youths migrate into the state in search for jobs, HumAngle findings revealed.

Despite being drastically low on Nigeria’s 40.1 percent poverty rate, the state might need to formulate a scheme that generally addresses and meets the satisfactions of roadside hawkers.

This story was supported by the US embassy via the ATUPA fellowship by Civic Hive.


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