Funded by: UKRI GCRF/Newton Fund Agile Response awards
Principal Investigator: Dr. Chidiebere Ogbonnaya, Digit Co-lead and Senior Lecturer in Organisational Behaviour/Human Resource Management, University of Sussex
Co Investigators: Professor Kasim Waziri, University of Abuja, Mrs. Ifeyinwa Obienu, Federal Ministry of Justice, Nigeria, Mrs. Noro Gwom, Federal Ministry of Justice, Nigeria,Mr. David Ogbonnaya, Federal Ministry of Justice, Nigeria
This research project will explore the impact of COVID-19 lockdown on Nigerian street vendors, focusing on their socioeconomic experiences (e.g., loss of income and hunger), coping strategies and susceptibility to crime. The project will also explore street vendors’ perspective on what government and policymakers can do to assist them urgently.
In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, which caught the world by surprise, the Nigerian Federal Government introduced strict lockdown and social distancing measures to help contain the virus. But how sustainable are these measures given possible risks to street vendors’ lives and livelihoods? Street vendors are crucial to Nigeria’s informal economy, contributing over 70% of the country’s urban employment. They are among the worst-affected by COVID-19 lockdown, and yet their plight is seldom considered in government planning and decision-making. The project will gather critical evidence to help government and policymakers develop immediate actions to support street vendors and reduce their plight during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our theoretical frame is based on stress coping (Lazarus and Folkman, 1984) and general strain (Agnew, 1992) theories. Stress coping theory outlines people’s coping reactions – either emotion-focused coping (e.g., feeling frustrated and depressed) or problem-focused coping (e.g., taking actions to tackle the problem) – to socioeconomic stressors such as job loss, economic hardship, social and financial insecurity. General strain theory, on the other hand, explains people’s propensity to engage in crime when faced with socioeconomic stressors.
Using a qualitative research approach, our 18-month project will achieve key objectives in two phases. Phase 1 (Months 1-9) will explore street vendors’ experiences and reactions to COVID-19 lockdown and social distancing measures using in-depth interviews, whereas Phase 2 (Months 10-18) will use data from three workshop events to inform government policy and decision-making. The outcomes of our project will advance knowledge on two Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations: ‘no poverty’ and ‘zero hunger’.
The project seeks to address five key research objectives:
- To explore how COVID-19 lockdown and social distancing measures (including the FG’s ban on street vending) have worsened the plights of street vendors in Nigeria.
- To identify the range of coping strategies employed by street vendors as a response to the lockdown, including criminal activity.
- To determine what types of criminal activity street vendors are likely to engage (or not engage) in.
- To explore street vendors’ perspective on what government and policymakers can do to reduce their plights during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.
- To explore government and policymakers’ perspective on immediate actions to take in addressing street vendors’ plights during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Findings from the research will provide actionable knowledge to help improve the Federal Government of Nigeria’s understanding of, and response to, the COVID-19 outbreak and wider concerns around job creation, crime prevention and social protection for the poor and most vulnerable in society.
- Recognising that COVID-19 may not be the last public health emergency to hit communities around the world, government and policymakers will learn from our project and hopefully respond more proactively to current (e.g., Ebola, Laser Fever) and future public health crises.
- Working in close partnership with the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Justice, whose mission is to ensure justice for all persons, particularly the poor and vulnerable in society, the research will address important gaps in ongoing criminal justice reforms such as ‘Decriminalization of Petty Offences’4.
- The outcomes of the project will also advance knowledge on two Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations: ‘no poverty’ and ‘zero hunger’.
- The project will also inform policy debates about ‘the New Urban Agenda’, part of the United Nations’ vision to promote supportive urban environments where street vendors can earn their livelihoods.