A walk through some selected pedestrian bridges across Lagos reveals a chaotic state of busyness on the bridges. People move to and fro the bridges in large numbers heading to their various destinations; beggars consistently sweep the bridges which in turn attract compensation from passers-by; agents are also seen distributing fliers and tracts to pedestrians. However, the bridges have also become trade centres for some merchants who tirelessly chant local jingles in order to attract buyers to their wares.
Wares which are mainly edibles and everyday goods such as roasted plantain, groundnut, soft drinks, biscuits, Kola nut, shoe polish, shaving stick, fruits, second-hand clothes, pepper, other food items are not lacking. It is not surprising to also find cobblers who offer on-the-spot services.
Usually, pedestrian bridges are built to help transit people across the highways to avoid accidents and prevent reckless drivers from harming people but from observations, pedestrian bridges have become the new marketplace for Lagos residents.
Trading on Lagos bridges has not only been a habit, it has gradually metamorphosed into a norm. Despite the efforts of the state government to develop Lagos into a mega city, trading on the bridges, which is not characteristic of true mega city, seem to be on the increase.
Speaking with New Telegraph on their reasons for engaging in such illegal practice, most of the traders lay a claim to the high rent among other things. A trader on Dopemu Bridge, Mrs. Dupe Majiyagbe said that she has resolved to fate- which is trading on a bridge that the situation of things in the country is disheartening and discouraging blaming it on bad economic policies that have brought about increase in the prices of things including rent. She said, “If I had the money to rent a shop, I’ll do so but really I cannot afford a shop because it is too expensive. The little money I get from sales is what I use for feeding my children and paying their school fees.
There is no other option than to sell here.” Another trader on the Dopemu bridge, Iya Seun as she is popularly called also spoke with New Telegraph. Iya Seun who sells drinks, biscuits and recharge card, said that she has been selling on the bridge for years because she lacks the capital for rent. She revealed that she is a widow who tries to keep her family together with the little she makes from her petty trade while also cleaning public toilets to survive.
Speaking on the conflict between pedestrian bridge traders and task force, she said that task force does not disturb them at Dopemu bridge and they do not pay to anybody. At Berger bridge, Miss Anuola Oreola a petty trader who deals in beverages said that she does not know that it is improper to sell on the bridge but that there is no other means for survival even now that she knows stating that the rent for shops in the axis is too high, the lowest being a million naira. Speaking on the challenge traders encounter at intervals, Oreola averred that task force visits the area frequently seizing their wares and charging them for recovery which they have to pay from the little they make.
Another petty trader on the Berger bridge, Miss Folake Ikeoluwa said that she is going nowhere since there is no other means of survival apart from selling on the bridge. She said she cannot afford a shop.
The Oshodi Bridge is not left out of the fray as trading on the bridge seems to be on the increase on the bridge. New Telegraph observed that the traders on that bridge have so much taken monopoly of that bridge to the extent that there is little space for pedestrians, that the bridge is originally meant for. Mr Aduke Kolawole, a trader on the bridge disclosed that they pay the sum of N500, weekly to KAI officials for trading on the bridge, but that this does not stop officials of the Lagos State Environmental Sanitation Corps to come to clear the bridge at intervals by seizing their goods.
Another trader simply known as Iya Lawal said that she engages in trading activities on the bridge daily, which she believes places her in a position of authority to talk about all the relationship between traders and LAGESC officials. She asserted that the traders are no longer afraid of the LAGESC officials since they know that all what the officials are after is money. According to her, the officials contribute N200 weekly towards the arrival of the LAGESC officials such that whenever they visit, the money they had contributed so far would be used to settle the officials. Speaking with New Telegraph, a LAGESC official, Mr. Ojo spoke on the allegations leveled against the corps. He said that the Lagos state government had introduced the corps into the system to tackle the problem of environmental nuisance in Lagos and most especially to get rid of people trading at illegal places.
“These people already know us for what we do such that whenever we are patrolling, they scamper to safety to avoid being arrested. We do not collect any tip from them. We are committed to our job and we do it well.” He added that officials of the LAGESC sometimes disguise themselves as traders to allow for easy arrest of traders who engage in bridge trading. Mr. Ojo further said that the LAGESC officials are trying all they could to get rid of those trading at illegal places.
• Additional reporting by Mary Adebisi
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