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Editorial: Rivers State Govt And The Ban On Hawking

Hawking according to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary is “the act of trying to sell things by going from place to place asking people to buy”.
Hawking or street trading is as old as society and is practiced all over the world. It is however more chronic in the underdeveloped economies like that of Nigeria.
Successive administrations in the state have without success tried to stop hawking, to no avail. Here in Rivers State, many state governments have also banned hawking one time or the other, but failed. When the governor Chibuike Amaechi led administration, recently announced a ban on hawking, political watchers took it with a pinch of salt. No wonder since the announcement, the ignoble trade still thrives.
Hawking in Port Harcourt metropolis holds sway mostly along Aba/Port Harcourt Express way, Ikwerre Road, Rumuokoro-Tank axis of the East West Road and infact anywhere there is bad spot on the road.
One may now want to ask what the causes of hawking are? Why have the numerous bans placed on hawking not paid off? Is there any hope of stamping out hawking in Rivers State, especially Port Harcourt. It is instructive to state here that hawking is synonymous with poverty. A country with 99 percent of its citizens living below poverty line, will definitely witness upsurge in hawking.
Unemployment plays a key role in encouraging hawking. First and foremost, almost all the hawkers found along the streets are petty traders. For instance, an unemployed youth who has N100 can easily start hawking ‘pure’ satchet water. The reason is because the capital involvement of starting a hawking business is small, the ever growing business will continue to thrive.
In Port Harcourt, for example, a store of 12 x 12 room goes for as much as N15,000 to N20,000 per month on rentage and a prospective tenant for such shop is required to pay for two years or more as the case maybe. Now tell us how a poor unemployed youth will be able to afford such shop and stock it for business in the absence of white collar jobs.
Lack of adequate market is yet another obstacle militating against the eradication of hawking in Rivers State.
You can agree with us that the number of markets in Port Harcourt for instance are not commensurate with the population in the city.
Population explosion in Port Harcourt was worsened by the incessant sectarian killings in Northern Nigeria, which forced erstwhile residents of the region to seek refuge in safer areas of the country, like Rivers State.
Port Harcourt often regarded as one of the safest cities in Nigeria, with enormous economic opportunities, made possible by the presence of the multinational oil and gas companies in the area readily provided such alternative for visitors, and returnees.
While we do not in anyway support or encourage hawking of any kind, we also believe that the only way to curb this menace is to create jobs for the teeming unemployed youths in the state.
Hawking no matter how illegal, is still better than embarking on social vices. In other words, it is better to have one thousand hawkers in the state, than to have ten criminals.
There is need for the state and the local governments to build more markets to accommodate more traders. It is in this regard, that we are doffing our hats for the Obio/Akpor council chairman, Prince Timothy Nsirim who recently built and commissioned an international market with about 800 stalls, with other state of the art facilities.
We urge other council chairmen to emulate the gesture, which will go a long way to eradicating hawking in the city of Port Harcourt and beyond.
We are convinced that it is only when alternative sources of survival for the people are provided that, the war against hawking will have meaning and can indeed be won. ####

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