FCT’s underage hawkers
Every day, hundreds of underage hawkers are seen loitering the streets of major cities in Nigeria struggling to eke a living for they and their families.
Most of these children are said to have migrated from the rural areas, often in search of the better lives that their guardians promised them in the cities. While some eventually step into the proverbial green pastures, many are cut off in their prime or end up engaging in criminal activities just to make ends meet.
Apart from the dangers associated with street hawking, such as accident, kidnapping, traffic congestion, it also exposes the children to all sorts of child abuse, such as rape, child molestation, and exposure to all forms of bad habits.
Street hawking is rated as the third largest criminal activity in the world after arms and drug trafficking. From the last decade, the phenomenon of street hawking has considerably increased in Abuja where minors troop in from different states hawking various product, with most of them oblivious of the danger involved in jumping the streets.
The major flash points where those underage hawkers are found at the city centre include T Y Danjuma Street in Asokoro, Area 11, Arab junction in Utako, Maputo street, Wuse zone 3, Abidjan Street, Wuse Zone 5, Lugbe, Karu by flyover, Gwarinp and a host of others.
A cross section of Nigerians interviewed, said street hawkers has led many children to fall prey to many vices.
Mr. Augustine Ajulo, a lawyer and principal manager at the National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, described the trend of street hawking in the FCT as worrisome, noting that it has increased the level of miscreants in most of the uncompleted buildings in Abuja.
“We are putting measures in place to checkmate the influx of vulnerable children into the city for child labor. We are also making effort to carry our campaign to the rural area to educate their parents to stop sending their children to their relatives in the city, who have no plans to build a good future for them. I think it is a thing of the mind. I do not believe it is entirely poverty. But notwithstanding, there is need to get them educated in the areas of their children's future, so that no matter the financial challenge, they will not allow anybody to deceive them and use their children for child labor,” Ajulo said.
Also speaking on matter, a civil servant, Miss. Nkechi Ayogu, said government should be held responsible for the increase of street hawkers at the city centre. She hinged her argument on the fact that government has over the years, neglect to enforce the child right act.
“For instance the child right act if properly enforced and commensurate sanction meted to offenders, will serve as deterrent to others. But the law only exists in theory. Imagine during school hours, children are seen in various locations in Abuja selling. Last week, I was coming from the villa, just by the three arms zones, hawkers were all over the places. These are areas that Diplomats and other dignitaries pass through every day. It goes to show that we are exposing the level of decay in our governance system. Government should wake up from slumber, and do the needful.”
METRO investigations further revealed that street hawking in Abuja metropolis is part of everyday life, as guardians of those children find it convenient to use the proceed from these trade to support their source of income.
Mrs. Florence Aniagwu of the federal ministry of health, said in 12 years in service at the federal Secretariat, she discovered that majority of hawkers, are female who devoted all their time for the trade. "Women are mostly full-time hawkers selling all sorts of fruits and food under the sun and sometimes in the rain, on the street corners, on bridges and along junctions. The look pathetic, you see them breastfeeding their baby under that hot sun. I do not think they deserve that. There is no reason for such business".
A group of people at the newspaper stand at eagle square, maintained that it is purely economic hardship that led to hawking. They however, said street hawkers constitute a nuisance to the society because it is both an economic and environmental issue.
"To tackle this problem, some state government should initiate various programs to stop street hawking. Although government had made series of effort to stop street hawking, these efforts are always met with stiff confrontation from the hawkers. For example, an attempt by the Abuja Environmental Protection Agency, to clamp down on hawkers in the past led to the protest by a group of about 250 hawkers. The protesters marched to the National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, to register their complaint about the incessant harassments by government officials who sometimes hide under the cover of illegality of the trade to extort and abuse hawkers."
Audu Saleh, in his reaction said, hawking is very dangerous. "You will see all categories of persons in this trade, especially young men and women dashing across the expressways at the detriment of their lives to offer goods to the customers. It is true that street hawking cannot be possible in a conducive atmosphere where everybody has something doing but for us is an illusion. It is better to seek for a better alternative of sustaining one’s self."
According to him, street hawking is as a result of economic hardship. He said "contributory factors abound; such as–Rural-Urban Migration. In most cases the developed cities and state capitals in Nigeria, street hawking is on increase as a result of some people trooping out from the interior part to urban areas. When these desperate people come out and eventually have nothing doing. The next available work is to go into street hawking, however, I am of the opinion that we can survive even within the so-called interior places by seeking alternative handwork instead of exposing oneself to the hazardous nature of street hawking.”
Another resident, Miss. Clementina Asukwo, said “Often, the girls who are underage are defiled by the boys who sleep at the same place at night with them. These street hawkers sleep in slums or uncompleted building with the girls. Girls who do not agree to have sex with them are often forcefully defiled one after the other and they have no one to report or complain to.
Those who sleep along the pedestrian lanes at night are sometimes defiled by street gangs. Most of these defilement cases result in pregnancy. How do they cope with the pregnancy?”
She further stated that some of the matured women among the hawkers graduate from street hawking into prostitution, all in the bid to make money for living.
"This kind of case is obtainable, especially among the highway night hawkers. In the same vein, street hawking can lead to arm robbery, picking of pockets, and vandalizing of personal properties. Many people have been victims of this menace of street hawking.”
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