Street traders at the hugely busy and congested Custom Market in Maiduguri in Borno State are making it a nightmare for commuters to get anywhere.
They trade on the pavements and many of them even sell their goods in the middle of the road, making it virtually impossible for motorcyclists, tricycle drivers, cars and other commuters to get through. People often get pushed and injured and it’s as if they are taking their lives in their hands when visiting the crowded market.
Roadside trading is strictly forbidden but that does not deter the vendors because it’s their only means of making a living.
Authorities chase them away frequently, seize the products they sell and issue stern warnings. But they know it’s a fruitless task because the vendors will just come back.
RNI reporter Amina Abbagana visited the congested market and found it hard to manoeuvre her way through the crowded road.
She asked some of the street traders why they had resorted to selling on the roadside even though they knew they were violating the rules and could be in trouble with the law.
Abba Bama, a rice seller at the bridge at Custom Market, said he had been warned and chased off the streets many times.
“It is humiliating to be treated like that, but I cannot stop doing business on the roadside because it is the only means I have of making some money,” he said.
“I put the rice inside a wheel barrow and sell it next to the bridge because I can’t afford a shop inside the market. Many times security officials have beaten me and the other street vendors. They chase us away but we still come back and they know we always will.”
Falmata Bukar said she depended on trading in the streets because it was the only way to put food on the table.
“If there was a better option, I would take it. But this is all I have now,” she said.
“We risk our lives every day by trading on the busy road. There’s always the chance that we could be hit by a car or some other vehicle. It has happened before that street vendors and passersby have been hit by a cars. But we have to go on. There’s no other choice. We have no other means to get money to buy food and other essentials.”
Muhammad Ibrahim, a fish vendor on the roadside, said he could not find a job anywhere and that had forced him to become a street trader. It was the only way he could feed his family.
“The location where we do business is not allowed and we are aware of that but we come out to make money. No one would notice us if we were not on this busy street.”
Fatima Abubakar, a passerby, said: “I was pushed so hard that I almost fell down because of the congestion. Someone could get badly hurt. But it’s always like this, you get crushed from all sides. It’s hard.”
Kundiri Baba Sale, a member of the Civilian Joint Task Force in charge of discipline and guarding life and property at the Custom Market, said they had tried to make adjustments inside the market to make more space but it had not helped. The road was as congested as it had always been.
“Sometimes we chase the roadside traders away but we still allow them to come back. Life is not easy and there’s no work available. How can we send unemployed people away?”
AISHA SD JAMAL