‘I have hawked before’
OBAJI AKPET, Calabar
Cross River State governor, Prof. Ben Ayade on Thursday said he was worried about the harsh economic realities which have rendered many homes unable to afford a square meal and would propose a bill seeking to protect the rights of street hawkers in the state.
Ayade, who disclosed this in Calabar, while signing the Homeland Security Service Bill and eight others into law stated that: “Hawkers’ protection bill is one bill after my heart, which I must ensure its enactment and implementation within the shortest possible time.”
He said he was also conscious of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) which the state has since domesticated adding that the proposed bill to be known as Hawkers Protection Bill, will allow only adults of 18 years and above in reflective vest to hawk at designated time and locations to guarantee survival devoid of violation.
The aim of the law according to him, is to protect the rights of the down trodden and change the economic fortunes of poor households as well as bring dignity to Africa’s most populous form of trading.
Ayade further stated that: “The supremacy of government does not allow it to know the agony of the down trodden which is why hawking is being prohibited and hawkers subjected to merciless whips at all times by law enforcement agents.
“Why must we deny a man or woman the right to earn a living simply because he or she does not have money to rent a shop?”
He said it was wrong to prohibit hawking outright, given the circumstances most Nigerians have found themselves, saying: “We want a law that will make hawking legal and provide clear terms and conditions under which you can hawk. I will provide specific hawking corridors to protect the rights of the down trodden.”
According to him, “The hawkers’ rights bill is key to Cross River State government. All I need to do is just to regulate it. Hawking is African thing and we cannot shy away from the fact that at some point in our lives, we have been at our lowest levels. Personally, I have hawked before.”
Offering further insight, Ayade explained: “It is unheard off, that a tourism state will encourage hawking but I assure you that we will by this new bill modernize hawking and make it more attractive in a manner that many will take to it even for leisure.”
Enunciating some of the benefits he derived while as a hawker, he said: “My childhood poverty that made me to hawk has today contributed immensely to my intellect, strength, capacity and sanity that made me understand, in spite of my today’s position, that I still have humility which is why God has charged me to be a vehicle for the protection of the poor.
“We must show concern for our brothers and sisters on the other side.”
While charging the legislators not to relent in making laws that will impact on the lives of the common man, Ayade lauded the 8th Assembly for passing 23 bills into law in less than two years. He promised to reward anyone who will promote laws that are not only in tandem with his vision but impact on the citizenry.