THE National Assembly is considering a comprehensive bill which, if passed, will enable the federal and state governments to regulate street trading, levy vendors, and make sure that across the country, individuals without permanent structures cannot trade without a license.
Named the “Nigerian Street Trading Regulation Commission (Establishment, Protection of Livelihoods, etc.) Bill, 2018”, was sponsored by Okorie Linus Abaa, the lawmaker representing the Ohaozara/Onicha/Ivo constituency of Ebonyi State at the House of Representatives.
The Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC) states that the bill passed through first reading on July 12, 2018.
According to its explanatory memorandum, the primary aim of the proposed law is to generate revenue for the Federal Government through the establishment of the Nigerian Street Trading Regulation Commission (NSTRC). It says the purpose of the agency shall also be providing an institutional and formal approach to protecting the livelihoods of street traders, domestic workers and others within the informal sector.
Job loss for countless others?
If the provisions of the bill are strictly implemented, it is expected that millions of Nigerians who are engaged in one form of street trading or the other will lose this source of livelihood and may be forced into alternative ventures. And the bill has a broad definition for the term “street trader”.
Section 31 defines it as “a person engaged in vending of articles, goods, wares, food items or merchandise of everyday use or offering services to the general public, in a street, lane, side walk, footpath, pavement, public park or any other public place or private area, from a temporary built up structure or by moving from place to place and includes hawker, peddler, squatter and all other synonymous terms which may be local or region specific.”
Part Four, sections 18 to 25, deals with the manner in which street trading will be regulated. According to it, no person can engage in street-trading unless they have a license (valid for a limited period), accompanied by an identification card.
To get the license, an amount will be paid and an undertaken must be signed with the State Street Trading Committee to swear, among other things, that the applicant has no other means of livelihood. The spouse or child of a street trader may use his or her license in the case of death, illness or disability.
Every five years, section 19 says, the State Street Trading Committee shall conduct a survey of street vendors based on “street trading zones” under its jurisdiction. Existing vendors will be accommodated in the trading zones but only “subject to a norm conforming to two and half per cent of the population” and “in accordance with the plan for street trading and the holding capacity of the street trading zones”. They will not be able to trade in non-street trading zones.
What happens when the street traders identified in the first survey are more than the zone’s holding capacity? According to Section 20(3), “the State Street Trading Committee shall carry out a draw of lots for issuing the certificate of street trading for that street trading zone and the remaining persons shall be accommodated in any adjoining street trading zone to avoid relocation.”
Section 31 explains that the holding capacity is the maximum number of street traders who can operate in any trading zone as determined by the local government area on the recommendations of the State Street Trading Committee.