Hawkers in Federal Capital Territory (FCT) have pleaded with the government to provide affordable shops and soft loans for their businesses to curb street hawking within the territory.
Some of these traders, while fielding questions on Thursday decried the hazards they encounter while carrying out their trade.
They said a lot of their colleagues have lost their lives, incurred severe injuries, lost properties and were arrested by the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) and other government officials for hawking on highways and streets within the FCT.
Hassan Inuwa, a cold drink vendor, said providing conducive business environment would go a long way to stop street hawkers, improve the livelihood of traders and the risk involved.
“We also don’t like the fact that we put our lives at risk in our quest to sell our products on the road.
“A lot of our colleagues have lost their lives or sustained injuries while carrying out their trades.
“If the government will assist us with low-interest loans or shops to sell our things, we will stop running after cars to sell things and stay in our shops,’’ he said.
Simon Emmanuel, a school dropout, who sells wristwatches and eyeglasses said he would continue his trade in spite of the risks involved, several arrests and extortion by government officials.
“I have been arrested several times by government officials and they release me after paying some charges, but I will still go back to the street and carry on with my business because it fetches me money, instead of going to steal,’’ he said.
According to him, assistance from the government will compel them to leave the streets and all the risks involved, adding that the proceeds from the business enable him to support his mother, who is a widow, and other siblings.
“If the government assist us by providing alternative places or money to rent a place, we will definitely move out of the streets,” he said.
Mrs Charity Sikiru, a food vendor, along Area 3, said she sells food on the street because she could not afford to rent a shop and with this, she supports her husband in providing for the family.
“We cannot afford to rent a shop and our customers are mostly cab drivers, who ply the road and other hawkers, so it is easier for us to sell on the street, where they can easily access us while carrying out their businesses as well,’’ she said.
Similarly, Umar Maiwaka, a Compaq Disc seller, said though he owns a shop in his area at Nyanya, but he prefers to sell on the street when there is gridlock.
“I get more patronage on the street during traffic hold-ups; that is why I usually lock my shop and sell on the street during traffic hours in spite of the risk involved,’’ he said.
Meanwhile, the Head of Information, AEPB, Mr Mustapha Ibrahim, said the 1997 Act, Section 35, subsection B establishing the agency, specifies that all types of trading in the FCT requires the authorization of the board.
According to him, the N5, 000 fine or six months imprisonment for offenders is not stringent enough to serve as deterrent for those found guilty of the offence, as they still return to the trade after being arrested, prosecuted or made to pay fine.
“We had warned members of the public against embarking on street hawking because they also endanger the lives of people coming in and out of traffic in their bid to sell their products, but they still return,’’ he said.
Ibrahim stressed the need for a review of the AEPB ACT to include a more stringent punishment and harsh fine to deter offenders since the present Act was too soft on offenders.