Thursday, September 4, 2008

The "Ugly" Beautification of Lagos: Crackdown on Street Trade

On my way home, I witnessed a violent, vicious and destructive law enforcement by government officials. Officials of the special task force were breaking down the tables, stools, chairs used by the street traders. They confiscated all their wares and dumped them into their trucks. My colleague who was with me said with an unflinching face that all that "boot" would be nicely distributed within themselves.

I felt so disgusted. In my six months here, I have not seen or read about any task force to take down the "area boys" (criminals who extort money at any occasion), the omnipresent armed robbers, or NEPA for not providing electricity. These are thousands of people who are just trying to make ends meet by their street trade, which by the visible volume clearly is matched by demand.

This is all part of the governor's "well-intentioned" agenda to beautify Lagos and make it a mega city. I am fine with putting potted plants on the pedestrian bridge or murials on the walls but banning buying and selling on the street is in my opinion, barbaric especially in a country where not so many livelihood options exist. And I have tried to get the opinion of the Lagosians who seemed to be quite happy by the discipline being enforced and not many share my disgust and absolute abomination of this crackdown. According to them, the traders have been issued several warnings and no other option exists!

PS: I have written a longer article on the informal economy and street trade. I haven't figured out a way of uploading it on the blog. So let me know if you want to know more.

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