BusinessDay

Hawkers, vendors take over major streets in Uyo

…Sellers, others blame poor state of markets

Vendors and hawkers of various wares and food items appear to have taken over almost all the major streets in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital.

Checks by BusinessDay revealed that this is posing serious threats to human and vehicular traffic as some of the traders displaying their goods on the streets risk being knocked down by cars, buses as well as mini uses using the roads.

The apparent upsurge in street trading which is also rampant near major markets in Uyo is coming on the heels of a recent ban on street trading by the state government.

Checks also revealed that a Task Force to ensure full compliance was raised by the state government but this seems to have recorded little success.

The checks also showed that even around markets in the city centre, nothing has changed as many shop owners now display their goods outside their stalls.

A visit to the popular Itam and Akpan Andem markets in Uyo metropolis revealed that traders seem to prefer displaying their goods by the roadsides, claiming inadequate stalls and poor sanitary conditions within the market space.

“It is worse during the rainy season as everywhere is flooded within the market, making it difficult for buyers to consider buying anything that is not found on the roadside,” a trader said.

It was also discovered that even some of those selling on the roadsides are shop owners inside the market but had to bring out their wares outside.

A yam seller at the popular Akpan Andem market, who identified himself as Billy, told our correspondent that the situation got worse during the lockdown following the outbreak of the Covid-19, where markets were shut for months.

He said people who were selling on the roadsides have refused to return to their stalls inside the market even when the market was opened for normal market sessions.

“There was a time everybody was forced to leave the road and return to the main market. After several warnings, bulldozers came in and destroyed so many things,” he said.

“There is no drainage system, the internal road network is now occupied by traders, even the car park inside the market is occupied by second-hand material sellers with big umbrellas and canopies, leaving no space for vehicles,” he further said.

The visit further revealed that over half of the lock-up shops in the market are vacant due to the poor state of the market.

It was also gathered that buyers also encourage the street trading as they have noted in an interview that they prefer buying at roadside because inside the market is always muddy and stinky.

According to a buyer who spoke to BusinessDay on condition of anonymity, said: “If there are no sellers on the road, we will have no choice but to go inside and shop. But the unfavourable condition of the markets is something to worry about. It will be appropriate if the authorities do something urgently about the poor condition of market in the state.”

In the same vein, a cross section of market women at Itam Market, in Itu Local Government Area of the state have blamed ticket agents for encouraging the road side trading in the area.

An Afang leaf seller, who asked not to be named, said that it has become difficult for government to push the roadside sellers inside the market, especially those along the night market area back into the market.

Read also: Nigeria’s food vendor industry shrinks 16% on pandemic impact

“Sometimes, state government taskforce will come and drive them away but those ticket boys will go and meet them to return to the Street. They will convince them that they sell more on the road side than inside the market.

“The ticket collectors know that they make more money from those street sellers. While they collect N100 for those inside the market, one agent collects up to N500 from a seller on the roadsides.

“Sometimes, you see three different agents collecting N500 each from one trader.”

“They don’t even issue them tickets after collecting the money. Any Street trader that refuses to pay them, they will carry such a trader’s goods. Sometimes, you see them struggling with vegetable sellers. Some of the collectors move about with a wheelbarrow, if you don’t pay, they pack whatever you are selling inside the wheelbarrow and go.

“There are cases when you bring the money to pay them and ask them to return your goods they will refuse. If you go to that Meat building, you will see only few people selling, most of them are outside. Unfortunately, you will find people selling very close to heaps of refuse. I don’t think that is healthy.”

Efforts to get the response of the Task Force on street trading were not successful.

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