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Street Hawkers or Top Officials: Who’s the Real Threat to Abuja’s Safety?

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ABUJA, Nigeria — A recent decision by Nyesom Wike, the new Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, to ban street hawkers and corn sellers in Abuja has sparked fierce backlash from a leading pro-democracy and civil rights group, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA.

Labeling the Minister’s assertions as “preposterous, thoughtless, and wicked,” HURIWA challenged his claims that these street vendors are enablers of insecurity in the nation’s capital.

“Top government officials in charge of public finances, not the corn sellers on the streets, are the real enablers of insecurity across Nigeria,” stated Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, National Coordinator of HURIWA on Sunday,  August 27, 2023.

He continued, “By drawing from the conviction rates of criminals in Nigeria, one can clearly see that those disgraced from public offices by anti-corruption agencies constitute the bulk of criminality. How can any rational mind place the blame on the shoulders of hawkers?”

When Wike assumed duty days earlier, he called for an immediate cleanup of Abuja, emphasizing the supposed security threats posed by street trading.

“Street trading is prohibited. Those selling corn drop their waste indiscriminately, creating opportunities for criminals to spy and relay information. We must clear the street hawkers,” he declared  during a meeting with the Federal Capital Territory Administration.

HURIWA, however, sees Wike’s sudden stance against street trading as a reflection of his own rags-to-riches story.

“From ‘nobody’ to ‘somebody’—perhaps that transition has clouded his empathy for the marginalized,” remarked a HURIWA spokesperson.

“Many of these so-called ‘hustlers’ are university graduates, struggling to find employment. They’re not turning to crime, they’re simply trying to make ends meet, waiting for their own stroke of ‘mother luck’ like Wike experienced.”

Furthermore, HURIWA questioned the legal foundation of Wike’s proposed ban, suggesting he lacks the authority to enact such a prohibition without proper legislation from the National Assembly.

The group also pointed out that globally celebrated cities, like New York and London, coexist harmoniously with street traders, who often contribute to the vibrancy and economy of urban centers.

“Instead of targeting those struggling at the bottom,” Onwubiko proposed, “Mr. Wike should set his sights on addressing corruption in procurement, bolstering transportation, and preventing the construction of substandard buildings in Abuja.”

As the debate heats up, the future of street trading in Abuja remains uncertain, with many awaiting the next move from the government.

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