A CRIME To Be POOR? : A Question For Godwin Obaseki
The notion that the law is meant for the poor in Nigeria has once again been justified by the leadership of Governor Godwin Obaseki, in Edo state with respect to traffic and street hawking offenders.
The attention of socialwatchdog.ng was drawn to the one-man protest of a victim of this inhuman and lopsided policy of the state government. The man, who has been standing in front of First Bank by Forestry junction, Ring Road, Benin City, is drawing the attention of well-meaning Nigerians and the entire world to the ill-treatment meted out to street hawkers and commercial drivers by agents of the state government.
Socialwatchdog.ng went to see for herself yesterday and had a chat with the man, who was already at his ‘duty post’ carrying out the protest. He, however, spared a few minutes to answer some questions from the representative of socialwatchdog.ng
Socialwatchdog.ng: Can we meet you, sir?
Protester: I am a victim of the inhumanity of the state government.
Socialwatchdog.ng: What do you mean by the inhumanity of the state government?
Protester: I mean laws that are made to cripple the poor and helpless in the society. Laws aimed at the vulnerable, whose lives don’t seem to matter to this present government.
Socialwatchdog.ng: What specific laws are you talking about?
Protester: I am talking mainly about the ‘street hawking prohibition act’, as a victim.
Socialwatchdog.ng: How can you call that an inhuman act? Don’t you love to see our streets free of children and young adults running after moving vehicles, and loitering around as they hawk?
Protester: Is hawking a hobby? Will someone like me, just wake up, leave my house and come to ring road to start hawking and running around after vehicles as a hobby? Won’t they bundle and send me to the nearest psychiatric hospital? We are on the street hawking because we are poor! It is our last hope of making a legal means of survival.
Socialwatchdog.ng: How are you a victim of the policy? You no longer have a source of livelihood or what?
Protester: I was arrested and charged to court; found guilty and sentenced to prison. At the prison, I expected that I, alongside other victims of ‘street hawking’ would be kept separately from hardened criminals. In the real sense, we are not criminals, but victims of the poor socio-economic realities in the country. Alas, we were thrown into cells with hardened criminals and maltreated like they were. How is that supposed to help us when we are released? To make matters worse, when we are done serving our sentences, we are released empty-handed without our wares that were confiscated.
Socialwatchdog.ng: What happens to the wares?
Protesters: That’s part of the questions Governor Godwin Obaseki should answer. His agents keep saying our wares had been taken to orphanage homes. What will orphanage homes do with shoe polish, shaving sticks, umbrellas, car chargers, wall clocks, adult slippers, amongst many other things we sell in traffic?
Socialwatchdog.ng: What exactly is your agitation?
Protester: The agitation is simply in three folds.
Firstly, what is the government putting in place to fix street hawkers economically, being that they are doing it to survive? After all, they have a fundamental human right to life, just like the rich, privileged folks.
Secondly, what is the aim of taking them to prison? To empower them or to deter them from returning back to the streets? Do you think they will sit and die of starvation in their houses if they have no economic means of survival? Except perhaps, the aim is to push them into crime.
Thirdly, what happens to our wares? Is it not bad enough that we are tagged criminals and thrown into prison for being poor? Why should they again steal our wares?
My brother, the injustice in this society is much and we have to speak up.
Socialwatchdog.ng: Thank you for your time. We will share your story to the world and hopefully, help you get the justice you seek.
The picture attached is that of the protester.
We believe an egalitarian society is one that thrives on just and fair policies.
Please share until it gets to the right quarters.
Remember, “Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere”.
SocialWatcher, Edo State.
Cc: John Mayaki
Stand4Justice #GodwinObaseki #SocialJustice #SocialObserver #JohnMayaki
IDEDE Oseyande, a graduate of the Federal University of Technology, Akure, is an unrepentant believer in the Nigeria project.
His concern for the actualisation of a prosperous nation and the continent, in general, is reflected in his written works.
He currently runs an online advocacy platform (www.socialwatchdog.ng) where he engages the government and the people.
Among his published works are ‘What is Left of What is Right?’, ‘The Portrait of a Revolutionary Leader’ and ‘Warri No Dey Carry Last’.
He is a guest writer for several blogs and his Attitudinal and Behavioral Coaching classes has transformed many lives.