Nigerians can be shortsighted. When the Lagos State governor Akinwunmi Ambode recently decided that he would be banning all street hawking and imposing a fine more than 4 times the minimum wage (or six months in jail) people were all up in arms, even those who support his government.
Some of us see nothing wrong with that kind of policy. In fact, Mr Ambode has foresight and is a man of wisdom. What he has simply done is open the market for street selling and buying and making sure that a cabal of street hawkers chasing after cars and buses in traffic does not control street trade.
Here is how this ban will deregulate street trading, reduce corruption, help Lagosians and boost the economy of the entire state:
Not every person with a car in Lagos is living a great life. Some of them have to do odd jobs to make ends meet. Some of them steal from the offices where they work. With this ban creating an artificial scarcity of Gala and LaCasera, the cost will of course go up. Baba Rifkatu who used to steal stationery from the storeroom in his office will now just need to buy a carton of Gala, a carton of bottled water and/or LaCasera which, electricity allowing, he will freeze for the journey back. On his way back home he will drive close to a full bus or taxi. They will think he wants to bash their cars. They will insult his mother. They will insult his “father’s prick”. But instead of insulting their parents back he will dangle an unopened gala in the air. They will apologise profusely and beg him to sell it to them. He will pretend to drive off, increasing demand for his product. Then eventually they will honk enough for him to slow down. He will ask them to squeeze the money and throw it into his window. And he will throw the Gala to them. And the bus or taxi driver will be relieved and proceed to admonish his passengers while chewing on his Gala, about why it is not good to abuse someone’s mother or someone’s father’s prick in traffic because "you never know who God will use to help you". The passengers will look at him chewing and ask him to drive close to the man “wey dey sell Gala”. Baba Rifkatu will not need to steal office stationery again.
BUS AND TAXI DRIVERS
So, smart business people will begin to put nice buses on the road that offer additional services. Now, Lagos buses and taxis are like those cheap airlines that do not serve you any refreshments on board. They can increase the fare a little and say that there will be refreshment during the journey. And especially if you will be in traffic for many hours as is common in Lagos, this will be an attractive option. You will use disposable cups to serve water and LaCasera and cut the Gala in half to save costs. Of course some bus drivers will prefer to just sell their product outright. So Lagosians will have a choice of a higher fare with full options or just jumping onto a bus and hoping that the driver still has Gala and water left. Competition is good.
Now most people find this to be a nuisance especially when you are on your way home in the humid heat. Yes you believe in Jesus and all but you do not want someone screaming to you about hellfire when really the bus already feels like hell. People are bound to shout down the preacher if he is interfering with a sale of Gala or “ice water”. This will mean that for bus preaching to continue it will have to diversify. A person can begin with the gospel according to Jesus but dangle the hope of purchasing Gala at the end of the sermon to support the work of the Lord. That way people can both sooth their consciences and stomachs.
Now, imagine a situation where a freelancer (a person who just fills up their bag with Gala and LaCasera or ice water and just hops on a bus hoping to make sales on his/her way home) hops onto a bus and his sale is clashing with the drivers own sale. This can lead to quarrels. You want competition but not in the same vehicle. This can be resolved easily. The Lagos government simply needs to come up with legislation stating that buses offering added services must color code their buses so that freelancers can know which bus to hop onto.
Mr Ambode does not need to work to reduce the traffic that makes people need street hawkers in the first place. Or organise street hawkers so that they even earn more and possibly pay tax. They are an eyesore. And he needs to ban them. All I can see from this ban is positive things. Because I am a positive person. Are you?