• Thursday, July 25, 2024
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Is Akwa Ibom losing the battle against street trading?


It seems quite obvious that the Akwa Ibom government is gradually losing the battle against street training in Uyo, the state capital as almost every available space within the city centre appears to have been taken over by traders of all manners of goods and services.

From the bend down boutique operators to hawkers of herbal products and to food vendors, you just name, it is possible to buy whatever one wishes around any street corner in the fast growing city centre.

Such a notable relaxing spot as the popular Ibom Plaza built by the administration of Obong Victor who was governor from 1999 to 2007 and other green zones have been taken over by street vendors displaying all manners of wares.

Another spot that has not been spared this ugly scenario is around the University of Uyo, town campus main gate. Despite the pedestrian crossing provided by the Akpabio administration, the sidewalks and the beautifully adorned railings leading to the main gate are now being occupied by hawkers and traders.

Read also: ‘Akwa Ibom vehicle assembly plant 99 percent ready’

“The government lacks the political will to enforce a no trading around here order,’ a resident observed recently saying the essence of embarking on urban renewal scheme in the state seems to be an effort in futility.

The menace of street trading and its effect of generating refuse thereof has however not failed to be noticed by the state government in which during the last executive council meeting directed the commissioner for environment, Charles Udoh to deal decisively with street traders in the state capital.

According to Ini Ememobong, commissioner for information and strategy who stated this in a statement made available to the media after the state executive council meeting, the commissioner for environment and solid mineral was directed to ensure that “illegal markets along roads are removed.’’ forthwith.

The proliferation of illegal markets and street traders in the city centre has posed a serious threat to the environment as well as the lives and property of residents, according to observers.

The increase in refuse in Uyo, according to many people, is one direct result of illegal trading and markets adding that attempts by the state government to open the drains with a view to evacuating the waste has not always been successful. Most times, the drains are left uncovered and after rains, it could turn into a tragedy.

For instance, last week, a 60-year-old roadside trader was reported to have drowned after a heavy rain that caused the entire stretch of the Abak road to be flooded when she was said to have fallen into an open ditch left bare by the officials of the state government after it opened for the refuse to be evacuated.

The youths from the community reportedly blocked all roads leading to the area demanding that the body of the lady should be found.

“We made efforts to rescue her when we noticed that she was being swept away by the flood.

Before we got to her, the fast-moving water had already pulled her to an open hole linking the underground drainage facing, a resident of the area was quoted as saying.

Many have blamed the rising unemployment in the state as one of factors responsible for indiscriminate street trading and the availability of illegal markets saying that thousands of graduates of secondary schools, schools of nursing, colleges of education, polytechnics and universities are unable to get a job.

Even those who graduated with first class degrees are not left in the growing unemployment market that has been described as a time bomb waiting to explode as the number of those without jobs continues to grow.

Last year when the state government announced plans to recruit 1000 teachers into the secondary education system, over 45,000 applicants submitted applications according to Ekaette Ebong Okon, chairman of the state secondary school board.

She said it was most stunning to see many first class graduates jostling for teaching jobs in many of the subject areas.

Two years ago, the National Bureau of Statistics ranked Akwa Ibom State as having the second highest unemployment rate with 45.2 percent in the country, though this was rejected by the state government but the reality is out of thousands that leave schools each year, only few can find employment either in the public and private sectors of the economy.

Though many of the street hawkers are said to be ‘foreigners’ who are not indigenous to the state, the damage has already been as the remodeling programme of the city is being distorted due to the menace of illegal markets and street traders.

It is therefore not difficult to guess why the state government appears to have lost the battle against street training in Uyo, a city known for its wide lawns, lush green scenery and breathtaking hospitality.