By Yinka Adeosun
Thirteen years after the enactment of the Lagos State Street Trading and Illegal Market Prohibition Law which restricts street trading and hawking in the state, the state government has laid down the marker. The law which before now was a seeming footnote in the state’s statute books has been widely condemned and largely described as an ineffectual piece of legislation without a human face.
In the aftermath of the Maryland mayhem, when a hawker was said to have been crushed to death allegedly by a BRT bus while trying to escape arrest from KAI officials, there have been outbursts against the state government for its recent decision to enforce this law. The unfortunate and avoidable death of the hawker led to a rampage resulting in the destruction of some BRT buses which, according to the state government, would cost about N139b to repair.
Many have argued that the application of such a law is anti-people and will further deepen the poverty index in the state as many of the street traders depend on the turnover of the business for their sustenance. Besides, if the government is really serious about the welfare of the people, it should provide an alternative for them. Thus, the state government needs to take another close look at the law with a view to humanising it.
While the executive is not totally blameless, the chunk of the blame should be directed at the Lagos State House of Assembly, whose members at the time made such a law. Lawmaking is a rigorous and cerebral exercise; however, what we have seen largely is the rubber stamping function and the infantile acquiescence to the whims and caprices of vested interests. These are the same lawmakers who were probably in one of those frenzied moments, when they approved the passage of the Life Pension Act for former governors of the state. This Lagos Assembly was actually the first to establish that law which many other states have since replicated.
However, their counterparts in Abuja have suddenly realised how to milk the country even after their exit from power. The demand for immunity and life pensions for principal officers of the House after their tenure is a calculated misdemeanour and must be roundly condemned.
To approve immunity and life pension for these principal officers is a licence for official criminality. At a time when Section 308 of the 1999 constitution is still being contested in some quarters due to the unconscionable and unscrupulous attitude of some governors, it is counter-productive that the legislative arm is planning to extend such a law to include principal officers of the National Assembly and state Houses of Assembly.
It is insulting for our lawmakers to be thinking of such opulence and extravagance at this period when many Nigerians are groaning under the hardship engendered by extant inclement economic realities. No thanks to the policy somersault of the present government and the profligacy of past regimes. While Nigerians are sacrificing their comfort for the hope of a brighter and better tomorrow, these insensitive lawmakers want to rape the nation’s future before it arrives.
It is a sad commentary on our legislature how some bills are passed into laws. How some irrelevant and unpopular matters are exalted above others clearly shows the disdain and disregard for the people who voted them into the parliament. Members of the national and state assemblies seem to have institutionalised a democracy devoid of decency and decorum. They have reduced the destiny of Nigeria to allowances and fight for positions and privileges.
If the test of any law is in its impact, it behoves the legislature to make laws that will impact the citizens positively. They should desist from acts that portray them as self-centred and negligent to the needs of the citizens.
Government is supposed to make life better for the people and not the opposite. Servicing lawmakers at the expense of the populace makes them everything but servants of the people. It will not be out of place to remind our lawmakers to consider what they will give to Nigeria and not what they will take from her.
Adeosun lives in Ondo, Ondo State.
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