•Save us from touts, task force operatives, they plead
By Rebecca Opaluwa
Roadside traders in Iyana-Iba, a community in Ojo Local Government Area of Lagos State, are alleging incessant harassment in the hands of touts and government task force officials.
The traders have said that while touts collect illegal levies from them, officials of the task force brazenly cart away their wares anytime the government operatives storm the area.
A few days to Christmas, the traders alleged that the task force raided the market and made away with their goods. The allegation was that the traders were selling by the roadside.
“They carried away all my goods. They took away everything I was selling,” one of the traders, Ikechukwu Emeka, who sold shoes, tearfully told Daily Sun, adding that the loss of his wares simply left him bleak and empty.
“At some point, government asked us to move away from the road and we did. But that day, the task force came unexpectedly and began to seize and destroy people’s goods. They took away mine; we were asked to come and bail them but many of us couldn’t get ours back. They kept on telling us to come back today, come back tomorrow. Right now, some of us cannot retrieve anything anymore. They simply brought me to zero level.”
Ikechukwu admitted that some of the traders indeed sold their wares beside the road and they used to worsen vehicular and pedestrian traffic jams on the Lagos-Badagry Expressway.
He also told the reporter that the traders paid N200 every evening to touts, otherwise known as agberos, for the little space where they displayed their wares. They also paid security fee at the end of the month.
A clothes seller, Mr. Ezekiel, told the reporter that the task force raided the market, claiming that their action was to dissuade traders from selling by the roadside. He lamented that the officials carried away many traders’ wares.
Ezekiel, who said that he was selling his wares at Iyana-Iba because he could not afford to rent a shop, also affirmed that each trader paid a daily fee of N200 for the little space they used to the touts claiming to be in charge of the area.
“If you don’t pay the N200, the touts will seize your goods until you pay them. I’m here because there is no job opportunity anywhere in the country. Besides, I don’t have enough money to rent a shop, yet I have to make a living,” he said.
Joy, a lady who claimed that she was a graduate of public administration from a polytechnic in Delta State, was one of the traders selling crayfish by the roadside. She told the Daily Sun that she was not around when the task force came to ransack the area. She, however, said that the visit of the operatives left many traders devastated.
She begged the Lagos State government, in these hard times, to allow the traders selling their goods in the area to continue doing so, adding that what the traders were doing was by far better than engaging in dubious acts and vices. She lamented that, on her first day at the spot, touts stormed the area to collect money from her, not caring if she had made any sales or not.
“We have no particular place to stay and that is not fair. I don’t know what Nigeria is turning to; government has a lot to do concerning this issue. It will be good for them to see ways of helping us.
“We have moved back from the road; we are no longer obstructing traffic. We know that it is not good selling wares at the roadside, as we too are at risk.
“But government needs to understand that we are striving to make a living. Every day, we sell in the sun and in the rain because we cannot afford to pay for shops. And now, from the little we make, touts won’t let us rest. We don’t know whom they are paying the money they collect from us. We would like to know if the money is going to government.”
A final-year student of Yaba College of Technology, Ifara David, who was among the traders, informed the reporter that he was selling eyeglasses and spectacles because he needed to help himself, as he had no job. He regretted that government had not made any alternative provision for the traders, wondering why task force officials were always coming to confiscate their goods. He contended that, since government had no place to relocate the traders, seizing and destroying people’s meagre sources of income was not right. He pleaded with government to allow the traders to sell their wares in the area in the evenings only.
“Now, we are coming out to sell things in the evening only. This is affecting us. Yet we still pay N200 to touts for the space we use; this is unfair.
“We come here around 4pm; sometimes, some of us don’t even sell anything, yet we are compelled to pay N200. If anyone fails to pay, they carry away their things. This is depressing.
“The task force members also come here to collect money from us. Sometimes they confiscate our goods and convert them to personal use instead of taking them to their office. This is very bad.
“The government should, please, help us. We want the rent for shops around here to be reduced for us to be able to rent them. Shops around Iyana-Iba go for as high as N500,000. This is out of the reach of petty traders; government should help us.”
Another trader selling used clothes, who did not want his name mentioned, lamented that the task force had taken to raiding the market in the evening, even when no one was coming to the spot to sell their wares in the morning.
He admitted that the idea of chasing away traders from the roadside was good to the extent that it helped to reduce traffic and ease congestion, but he wanted government to consider that people were struggling to cater for their families in these austere times.
“We are here because our children have to feed and go to school. We want government to provide us with an alternative place to sell our wares and make a living,” he said.