Traffic: Blessing for the hawkers

Date: 16-12-2010 12:53 pm (13 years ago) | Author: Aliuniyi lawal
- at 16-12-2010 12:53 PM (13 years ago)

The faces in the vehicles are not smiling. They look exasperated, to say the least. Cars honk endlessly and abusive words are hauled in all directions.

Everyone wants to get to their destination. On the right side of the road, several vehicles are parked. A driver fiddles with the engine compartment. One or all of them may be overheating.

On the left side of the road, another drama unfolds –people are arguing over a “bumper-to-bumper” accident. In the background, a teenage hawker is heard calling, “pure water”, “oga buy pure water.”

The scenario above is what road users face almost on a daily basis in Abuja, Nigeria’s federal capital. Heavy traffic has made movement a difficult experience in the city. The situation is sometimes comparable to that of Lagos, known for its frequent gridlock.

The worst-affected roads are the access and exit routes to the city centre. Whether it is the early morning rush hours or the evening return trip, the experience is the same.

The city centre, by its elitist design, is way off the affordable range of the majority of people who seek their daily bread there. According to the 2006 Population Census results, Abuja has an estimated population of 1.4 million. That was then; the figure will be far higher today. However, over 90 per cent of the population is believed to reside in the satellite towns of Kubwa, Karu, Gwagwalada, Nyanya, Gwagwa, Dutse-Alhaji, Jikwoyi, Mpape and far-flung areas like Kuje and Abaji.

The city centre is known for its wide and smooth roads. The irony, however, is that the roads linking the satellite towns to the city centre are narrow, resulting in vehicles cramming into two lanes or at best, three narrow lanes!

Amid the anger, the shouting match between motorists and the lost man-hours in traffic jams, is a market thrown up for an army of youths who seize the opportunity to make brisk business! This is a goldmine of sorts for them.

Talk about one man’s meat being another man’s poison. Funnily, the hawkers - mostly youths running after vehicles - call the traffic jams ‘mobile shops.’ They don’t have to pay rent or tax. It’s a free market.

Ordinary, they cannot afford millions of naira to rent a shop in Abuja’s Wuse Market but they make as much on their ‘mobile shop’ as the shop owners in Wuse!

Limited opportunities for formal employment have made hawking an attractive option for many youths in Abuja who support their education and family from the business.

From consumables to vehicle accessories and household items, there is no limit to what is available for sale in the traffic.

Nineteen-year-old Sani Saleh, resides with his parents at the popular Mogadishu Barracks in Abuja. He sells confectionaries and ‘pure water’ in the traffic along the Nyanya-city centre route, especially between Kugbo and the flyover near the entrance to the barracks.

For Saleh, “business is good” as he makes reasonable sales on the days he is on the road. He says, “When people spend hours in traffic, they will want to eat or drink water, naturally. The traffic can be very heavy, especially in the evenings when people are rushing from work back home. What we have noticed is that this same traffic that people are rushing to avoid is what they get trapped in eventually.

“For us, on a good day, sales can start from 4pm and will last till 11pm. One day, my sister and I sold 15 cartons of ‘Gala’ and people were still asking for more. We got tired and went home to rest, because we also sold so many bags of pure water.”

Another hawker, 21-year old Edwin Ede, sells apples in the traffic. Hawking in the traffic is a risk, there is the possibility of being hit by a vehicle, he says.

“Anything from biscuits, bottled drinks to apples, sells like a hot cake whenever people are hungry in the traffic,” he tells our Correspondent.

“Some people maybe, did not eat from the house. When they are held up in the traffic, they will like to eat something,” Ede adds.

“We monitor the flow of traffic and we know exactly where to position ourselves to make sales. Most times, we sell everything and run home to get more supplies,” he recalls.

Ede claims that he sometimes sells between N5, 000 and N10, 000 worth of apples. “In the morning, there are days when the traffic will be heavy till 12noon; by 4pm or 5pm, we are back on the other side of the road again for the evening business,” he says.

A young girl, Juliana Matthew, who sells sachet water, notes that on very hot days, motorists and commuters hardly have enough of ‘pure water.’

“But our main targets are broken down cars. They usually break down due to engine overheating,” she says.

“If the drivers do not carry water along with them, they have to buy pure water for their radiator or the car will not move,” she adds.

An auto mechanic, Mr. Kalu Okoye, explains that water usually drains from the radiator due to pressure from the overheating engine.

“When this happens, the driver must allow the whole water to drain and wait for some time for heat to evaporate from the engine. Only then can he refill the radiator with water and proceed on his journey,” Okoye says.

Juliana and many others like her already know this, so they lay in wait for vehicles likely to grind to a halt.

“Whenever this happens, sometimes, the driver will buy a whole bag of pure water and may request for more. One bag has like 20 packs (sachet); one bag is N200. So, our market will move faster if we sell in bags instead of selling one, one…” she explains.

A bus driver, Solomon Adamu, says, “the hold-up (traffic jam) is just too much. Sometimes, we don’t even know what causes it.”

Commuters complain that besides the population explosion and narrow roads connecting the satellite towns, ongoing construction work all over Abuja is a major cause of heavy traffic. The regular traffic jam along the Abuja-Karu-Nyanya route for instance, is said to be made worse by the ongoing construction of a flyover by the Mogadishu Barracks.

“There was a time the construction firm compounded the situation by erecting speed breakers on the road, further slowing down the flow of traffic,” a civil servant, Audu Ogbu, says.

Construction work is also blamed partly for the daily traffic snarl along the Kubwa and airport routes, where road expansion projects are ongoing.

An official of the Federal Capital Territory Administration said, in confidence, that “government is taking measures to address the Abuja traffic problem.”

The Minister of the FCT, Senator Bala Mohmammed, has spoken of a plan by the administration to provide alternative routes through Karshi to reduce the burden on the Abuja-Nyanya route, for instance.

This plan and many of such have not materialised. While the residents wait, the ‘suffering and smiling’, (according to the late Fela Anikulapo Kuti) continues. But, for the likes of Juliana, Ede and Saleh, they are not complaining. They look forward to the gridlock!

Posted: at 16-12-2010 12:53 PM (13 years ago) | Gistmaniac
- sixtyhoneyy at 16-12-2010 01:01 PM (13 years ago)
hmmm no comment
Posted: at 16-12-2010 01:01 PM (13 years ago) | Gistmaniac
- lomo1st at 16-12-2010 01:59 PM (13 years ago)
traffic hawking/ trading as dangerous as it may be seem to be one of the few ways the poor people could get thier daily stipends especially in traffic congested urban centres in developing countyires world wide....the govt, in partnership with private investors can help absorb a large population of these traffic traders by creating more job openings, especially jobs requiring some form of their physical inputs while the under-aged /school aged traders be pushed back into schools, at least this will lessen their stay on traffic thus reducing accident hazards, raise a considerable amount working class/technocrats,and also generate more income for the people which will aslo amount to gains for the govt, such laws can be made and enforced.
Posted: at 16-12-2010 01:59 PM (13 years ago) | Upcoming
- Freesmile at 16-12-2010 05:07 PM (13 years ago)
Posted: at 16-12-2010 05:07 PM (13 years ago) | Upcoming
- Marvellous1 at 17-12-2010 04:57 PM (13 years ago)
Posted: at 17-12-2010 04:57 PM (13 years ago) | Newbie