A human rights advocate has said if the law banning street trading in Rivers State will make people poorer then it should not continue to exist.
Human rights advocate Barrister Higher King said this in a telephone interview on Friday.
He said: “The law is made for the people and not people for the law. So, if the law will impoverish people more, I don't think that law should stand. If the law will punish people more, that law will not stand because the essence of a law is to improve living standard of people (and) improve lives”.
He said while he commends the Rivers State government for taking traders off the streets, he thinks that there should be enough markets for them to move in to do business.
He said although he has not seen the content of the law, he thinks that the law could be challenged if it infringes on the rights of traders doing business in Rivers State.
Barrister King said he could go to court on behalf of a client to challenge the law banning street trading in the state if it infringes on his or her rights stating that the law should be fair to people doing business in the state.
He said: “The essence of a law is to improve lives, not to punish people. So if the law begins to punish people, the same government will reverse it. That I know. So the laws are not made to punish people. Laws are made to make society better, not to worsen crisis in society, not to make society worse than it was before the law was made.”
The human rights advocate said the law could increase criminality in Rivers State if it had negative consequences on people.
Barrister King said traders have a right to do business and earn a living in the state saying that if something is wrong with the law banning street trading, traders could go to court to challenge it.
He said while it is good to stop street trading, the government should also consider consequences of the action, saying that street trading also exists in places like New York, Japan and Dubai and other cities all over the world.
He expressed fear that criminal elements in the state could use the law to harass people and make money out of it.
The human rights advocate appealed to the Rivers State government to reconsider the law, saying that as any law it should make society better.
He said: “If I come back (from travel), I will look at the content of the law… They will go back to the House of Assembly (and) say no. They will listen because like I said, the law is made for the people, not the people for the law. The law shouldn't punish us. The law should make us better and happy. That's the essence of that law, to make the streets clear as you are moving around (and) everybody is looking better and all that.
“That is also why government do roads so that there won't be hold-ups (and) people can go to their businesses and all that. I can't see a government coming to destroy road so that people will now be staying five hours on the road and suffering. The roads are made for people to move freely and quickly… So the essence of this law is to make society better. So if the law turns around to begin to punish people then it should be discarded and disregarded and thrown to dustbin”.