There are worries over increasing numbers of out-of-school children hawking on roads in Lagos State.
It is common to see children along Lagos-Ibadan Expressway during heavy traffic.
Also, it is common to see children as little as five running after vehicles and passersby to beg for money and food, in bustling neighbourhoods of Oshodi, Agege, Berger, Mushin, Ijora, Ketu, Obalende, Ikorodu, Yaba and border communities in Ogun.
Many of them, aged between five and 17 years either beg or hawk wares in the traffic.
Abidemi Abdullahi a 13-year-old girl, who sells plantain and potato chips in traffic at Ago Palace way, Okota, Isolo, Lagos, said she sells the items to support her family and siblings having been born into a polygamous family.
Abdullahi said she had to hawk wares to support her siblings’ education and upbringing. Asked about her level of education, she replied that she has never attended any basic education.
“Apart from the religious night class I attend after hawking, I don’t go to any other place. Hawking is tiring, while my feet are usually sore, bruised, swollen and painful, sometimes my neck hurts so much,” she said.
Another child hawker, Amarachi, who hawks along Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway, said her aunty forced her to hawk commodities.
She narrated how she escaped being run over by a bus while she was pursued by the Task Force team.
A resident, Abike Kanyisola, said street hawking exposes children to sexual abuse, physical torture, vehicle accidents, death and other abuses.
According to her, street hawking and hawking in traffic are the commonest forms of child labour practice in Nigeria, hence the Child Rights Act provides that children should be protected from trafficking and street hawking, yet children are being trafficked and pushed into the streets as merchants.
A parent, Mercy Aina lamented that the trend is rising because of economic downturn of the country, while prices of commodities have doubled and some parents can no longer afford or carter for their children, thereby sending them to the streets to hawk and beg for alms so as to support the family.
“Most of the parents or guardians of these children are ignorant of the dangers of street and traffic hawking. Their children can fall victims to anti-social activities thereby destroying the future of these vulnerable and naïve children,” she said.
Another parent, Michael Eboh urged the authorities to ensure regular raids of the roads to ensure that children of school age are not allowed to be on the road during school hours.
Apart from being out of school, he said these children could be harmed because some of the vehicles plying Lagos roads operate without good brakes.
According to him, sometimes, children out of ignorance engage themselves in child labour on their own volition, just to make ends meet.
He said that addressing child labour and street hawking has to be taken seriously and be part of government agenda.
“A lot of things constitute child abuse, ranging from hawking to physical abuse. Do you know how many little girls who have been abused sexually by agberos because they hawk oranges? Do you know how many that have been sexually abused? And when they complain to their mothers, they do nothing about it because they want extra pay from the vending business. It’s not hawking alone that should be banned, mothers that use their under-aged daughters to manage their beer parlour business should go to jail,” he added.
To stem the tide, the state in August last year outlawed street begging as well as set up a special team to enforce the ban.
Commissioner for the Ministry of Youth and Social Development, Olusegun Dawodu, who announced the ban said: “Street begging is a social vice that we cannot afford to watch attain an uncontrollable level before we act. Otherwise, all the good plans to transform our state will be adversely affected; the same goes for street hawking.
“The task we are undertaking is not only to sanitise our society, but also to restore the dignity of these people who have been sent to the streets for alms begging and hawking.”
However, the trend has continued unabated, but a senior official of the ministry said, the ban is still subsisting.
Also, the Chairman of Lagos State Environmental Sanitation Enforcement Agency (Task Force), Sola Jejeloye has warned Lagosians on the dangers of street trading and other environmental vices, which are not in tandem with global practices.