Aside serving their primary purpose of lightening up the surroundings and adding to the aesthetic ambience, the bright streetlights lining the median along the Murtala Muhammed International Airport Road, Lagos, are also providing an opportunity for some quick-witted vendors to do brisk business in the night. The commercial activities, which range from sales of second hand clothes and footwear to food, drinks and even fruits and vegetables, seem to have increased in recent times. These petty traders, who daily ply their commerce on the median, have become a permanent feature in the areas where they operate.
This development is especially apparent at 7/8 and Junction Bus Stops along Airport road, Ajao Estate area of Lagos State. Once it is 6:00pm or 7:00pm, the roadside food vendors arrive to set up shop, which usually comprises a big table (s) upon which the big containers of food and drinks are placed. There are also buckets of water, together with long benches and chairs that are used by the customers, who appear to have only been waiting for this display, as they emerge from every direction to gather round the table of food and drinks.
But it is not only the food sellers that enjoy such high patronage. Sellers of second hand clothes, handbags and shoes also attract their fair share of clients, who include commuters alighting from buses at these popular bus stops. And all this is done on the median, made possible by the tall streetlights that are perpetually switched on, once it is dark.
The traders carry on their activities until late in the night, when they close shop around 10:30pm or 11pm. A resident, Henry Makinde, told The Guardian that all this is happening, due to lack of effective taskforce in the area that can also work at night to maintain law and order.
He said: “In developed countries, buying and selling is not done on the median, even at night. This is the road leading to the international airport, which is the gateway to the country. The median of the road is meant for pedestrians and commuters, who are waiting to board buses to their various destinations and not for trading.”
Mike Dike, a resident around Mafoluku, who regularly patronises a food vendor at 7/8 Bus Stop, said he comes to eat at the joint every day because the woman’s food is cheap and tastier than many others he had tried in the past.
“I am a bachelor and I used to cook a lot in my house. But for some time now, I have not been cooking at home, because every night, I come here to take dinner. The food is very delicious and cheaper than what obtains in some other places I know. I love eating ‘swallow’ with different native soups, and the people selling food here are the best when it comes to ‘swallow’. This joint is quite good, as there is no type of food you will not find here, especially local delicacies.”
One of the food vendors, Mrs. Kafayat Yusuf, said the economic hardship in the country is responsible for the development, as many people that cannot afford shops are converting the median into makeshift stalls.
She said: “Shops in Ajao Estate are expensive. So, low-income earners like us cannot afford them. We have no other option than to sell our goods by the roadside, since we must put food on the table to feed our children and also pay their school fees.
“This government has not actually cared much for the poor masses. Things are difficult and people at our level are struggling to survive the economic hardship.”
So, how much does she make in a day?
“We make up to N20, 000 or N30, 000 on daily basis, depending on the number of customers that come. Sometimes, customers do not come as expected,” she explained.
In her response through a phone call, Corps Marshal for Kick Against Indiscipline in Lagos State (KAI), Mrs. Gbemisola Akinpelu, said KAI officers are doing their best to maintain law and order in the state, but that they are mandated to close at 6pm.
“KAI officers work from morning to 6pm when they close for the day for security reasons,” she said. “The people trading at night often attack our officers whenever they accost them at night. So, because of this, they do not work beyond 6pm.”
She stated that KAI officers have been doing their best to educate the night traders, especially the roadside hawkers, that it is risky and unreasonable, as it contributes to traffic gridlock and other traffic-related challenges in Lagos State generally.