The National Security Council’s proposition to ban commercial motorcycles is already causing some stir nationwide, writes ADEYINKA ADERIBIGBE
Rising last week from a crucial meeting where it reviewed the recent attack on Kuje Correctional Centre by the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) terrorists, the National Security Council had mulled a nationwide ban on commercial motor cyclists.
Announcing the proposed ban, the Attorney-General of the Federation Abubakar Malami, said it was to check the high rate of terrorism in the country.
Banned, alongside commercial motorcycles is illegal mining, which is becoming a major heist for bandits, especially in Zamfara, Niger, Taraba and Plateau states…CONTINUE READING
By Malami’s calculation, 60 million motorcycle operators nationwide must consider taking a second job by the time the Federal Government unveils the law banning commercial motorcycle operation nationwide.
While the figure quoted by the nation’s law officer remains contestable, he opined that the ban will help strengthen the onslaught by security operatives against the bandits terrorising and making a section of the country ungovernable.
The Security Council had been worried that the attacks by bandits have followed same or similar pattern. The terrorists who attacked the Kuje Custodial Centre had stormed the facility on hundreds of motorcycles, with which they made their escape with the prized members, who had been incarcerated at the Kuje.
From Kuje, in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Kaduna, Zamfara, or Katsina, Niger, Taraba, Plateau and even Owo, in Ondo State, where the terrorists killed no fewer than 70 Catholic Church parishioners during a Sunday service, the terrorists made their arrival and getaway on motorcycles, popularly known among locals as okada.
The two-wheel vehicle favoured by many globally for its maneuverability, especially in urban megapolis reknown for traffic congestion have become a victim yet again of its success, as a quick dash vehicle for commuters who are in a hurry to get away from terrible traffic congestion.
Ironically, it is not the Federal Government alone that has been worried about the growing profile of okada as a means of transportation in many urban centres in the country.
Many states had in the past taken the same route, which the Federal Government announced last Thursday. For instance, on June 1, this year, Lagos State commenced a regime of total ban of okada operation in 15 of its 57 local councils. It was the culmination of a war of will which started in 2012 with partial restriction on roads in these same councils, in its bid to bring these operators under control.
According to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, apart from the total ban of okada operation on highways and bridges, the business remained banned in Apapa Local Government Area (LGA), Apapa Iganmu LCDA, Ikeja Local Government Area, Ojodu LCDA and Onigbongbo LCDA, Lagos Island Local Government, Lagos Island West LCDA, Lagos Island East LCDA, and Lagos Mainland and Yaba LCDA, Surulere Local Government, Coker Aguda LCDA, Itire-Ikate LCDA, Eti-Osa Local Government, Eti-Osa East LCDA, Eti-Osa West LCDA, Iru Victoria Island LCDA, and Ikoyi-Obalende LCDA.
The governor, said the total ban will be enforced in phases, adding that besides accident and insecurity, okada operation is becoming a cog to the realisation of its transportation masterplan.
The Sanwo-Olu administration had been worried lately about the growing proliferation of okada operation in the state by non-Hausa speaking urchins, on who, security reports have continued to raise the red flag.
To forstall any development, the government had banned okada operation, noting that more comfortable alternatives are being rolled out to shore up the supply end of supply-demand pull, and ensure that citizens have a better, more comfortable alternative means of moving within the state.
While Lagos banned okada operations in only 15 council areas, it was outright ban in states like Zamfara, Kano, Taraba, and Borno where bandits have maintained almost a permanent feature killing, maiming and entrenching a presence for over two decades.
In most of these places, including Kaduna, and Benue, okada operations have been banned, because gunmen are known to have attacked and killed many rural communities using okada as a means of easy escape.
In the Southwest, though Ogun, Ondo, and Ekiti are yet to make statements about okada operation, Osun and Oyo had insisted on regulating operators.
The state’s position was further armed by that of the National Council on Transportation (NCT), Nigeria’s highest policy making platform, had insisted that okada is unacceptable as a form of transportation.
However, because it did not have the power or force of law, NCT merely gave each state the power to legislate for or against okada operation in their domain.
In Lagos for instance, the government decided that impounded okada must be crushed.
So far, about 300,000 impounded okada have been crushed in the Lagos State TaskForce crushing plant at Ikeja alone. This is despite unconfirmed statistics which put okada in the state close to two million.
But Smart Nwankwo, an Economist and private businessman said, the experience in some of the states showed, the Federal Government may not make a success of its intended ban on commercial motorcycles nationwide, simply because it lacks the manpower to enforce the law.
The sheer number of operators involved nationwide is too huge compared to the number of available hands in the security arms, such that an effective ban may be a mirage.
He urged the Federal Government to cut the size of its scope of enforcement to ones it could cope with, adding that doing otherwise is a recipe for failure.
Juwon Odunayo said a total ban of okada operations nationwide is another example of Federal Government’s insensitivity to the economic realities to which its misplaced economic policies have driven Nigerians.
He said many who have been driven into okada operation as a result of unemployment or underemployment would now have to be driven out again into the shrinking labour market to further compound the crisis, thus further giving the security operatives more headaches.
He said as seen by examples in Lagos, Ogun, Oyo and elsewhere, many commercial motorcycle operators are themselves security operatives, – policemen, Army, Air Force, the NSCDC and such likes, who uses their okada to eke out just a living to further cushion the biting impact of the economic crunch in the economy.
Granted that okada’s crime profile has continued to grow in recent time, Odunayo believed te Federal Government itself must decide if it ever wanted to put an end to the unending reign of bandits and terrorists in the name of Boko Haram or ISWAP, adding that government’s body language seems to be encouraging the growth, rather than the annihilation of the terrorism on any inch of the nation’s soil.
Juwon like other Nigerians, believed crime will always proliferates where the bar of risk does not exist, adding that if the okadas are banned, terrorists would devise another means of achieving their targets if government remained hand-in-gloves with crime.
Though the Minister of Information and Culture Alhaji Lai Mohammed had severally insisted the Buhari administration has done so well in reducing the spate of insecurity, with the nation’s law officer, Malami adding that the ban on okada would further aid the fight against terror, Nigerians remained unconvinced and to them, the ban on okada, nationwide may further plunge millions of families who are on the fringes, deeper into the jungle of poverty.