Seized motorcycles<br />
The proposed nationwide ban on the operation of motorcycles as a means of transportation and a blanket ban on mining activities nationwide is another evidence of the failure of leadership, absence of deep analysis in policy making and a narrow-minded focus on symptoms rather than causes of the security challenges in Nigeria.
The proposal is not only an apparent panicky measure, it signposts yet another over-simplistic measure to resolve overnight, a problem that built up over at least the past 40 years.
Surely okada as a phenomenon of public transportation in Nigeria happened gradually but steadily as a natural way to fill a void of organised means of transportation; no thanks to official neglect of a sector so critical to the economy and social wellbeing of the ordinary Nigerian.
All over the world where government and governance exist in the real sense of it, somebody thinks of how to facilitate mass movement of people.
This requirement is even more critical in Nigeria where people’s livelihood is linked directly with their mobility capacity, as workplaces are usually a distance from residential areas; but governments at all levels failed to respond, or respond adequately to this vital necessity, giving vent to the conversion of motorcycles to commercial means of transportation now employing millions of able-bodied young Nigerians including graduates of tertiary institutions who are denied decent employment.
No doubt, commercial motorcycles, or okada in popular parlance, have over the years constituted more menace than they have provided good services despite intermittent attempts by various governments to regulate them. They are used to perpetrate violent crimes such as armed robbery, because of the ease of getaway in a country of bad roads, clumsy topography and town planning.
Lately, this menace has heightened as terrorists and insurgents now freely use okada to launch deadly attacks on hapless Nigerians and escape with ease.
In addition, the operators are notorious for reckless driving that has, directly and indirectly, caused the untimely deaths of hundreds of thousands of Nigerians; and overstretched health facilities to the extent that major hospitals devote wards substantially to okada-induced accidents. Many Nigerians have been permanently disabled from these accidents.
Therefore, a proposal to rid the country permanently of these vices ordinarily ought to be exciting; but such a proposal cannot be implemented by fiat without dangerously complicating the old problems and creating multiple fresh problems.
Government is expected to bring to the table a holistic set of measures to eradicate the vices caused by okada, engage meaningfully countless operators that will be affected, and provide alternative means of transportation to teeming commuters, among other things.
As part of measures to find solutions to the lingering security challenges, the National Security Council met in Abuja. Briefing newsmen at the end of the meeting, Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami said the Council was considering banning the use of motorcycles, popularly called Okada in the country. He also said mining activities would be banned on security grounds. According to him, “placing a ban on the use of motorcycles and mining activities will cut the supply of logistics to the terrorists.”
However, finding solutions to the embarrassing security breaches in the country goes beyond cosmetic measures to a holistic rejigging of the security architecture and provision of the right economic, political and structural environment for the citizenry.
Expectedly, there have been many reactions to the proposed ban with the majority of commentators and sectoral interests criticising the move. The Yoruba socio-cultural association, Afenifere described the government’s proposal as “evidence that deep or scientific thinking does not characterise how decisions are arrived at in the corridors of power… to suppose that banning these activities would put a stop to terrorism is not only wishful thinking, it amounts to an induced self-delusion that can only complicate the ailment that one is suffering from. Pursuing that line is leaving the substance to chase the shadow.”
One of the associations directly affected, Amalgamated Commercial Tricycle and Motorcycles Owners, Repairers and Riders Association of Nigeria (ACOMORAN) has warned that the proposed ban will throw 40 million Nigerians into the job market and create a worse monster than terrorism.
Malami during his announcement acknowledged that it would affect about 20 per cent of Nigerians. That would mean about 40 million of the estimated population of about 200 million. But the Attorney General said they should take it as a sacrifice to guarantee security in Nigeria. This is too much sacrifice to the demand of 40 million Nigerians without any reciprocal incentive for the hapless Nigerians. Beyond that, they would be sacrificing for a policy that is not guaranteed to solve the problem of insecurity.
But the posers from ACOMORAN are worth addressing. The association had asked:
*If 10 million of these 40 million people they plan to render jobless take to crime, can the government contain them?
*If you attribute the movement of terrorists to motorcycles, don’t criminals operate with vehicles?
*When terrorists regrettably attacked Kuje Prison, was it the motorcycle riders that caused the failure of intelligence gathering?
*If they rode motorcycles there, how were they able to beat all the security checkpoints to get to such a fortified facility?
*Are motorcycles also responsible for the late re-enforcement?
These questions may appear self-serving and intended to protect their businesses but they also contain some iota of truth that belies the thoughtfulness of the panicky ban.
A different set of reasons could be marshalled to justify the ban on Okada. In the first place, it is an aberration to rely on as a modern means of transportation rather than an integrated multi-modal means of transportation that will eliminate the need for Okada.
Also, a sincere and concerted effort to improve power supply to the populace will remove a large chunk of Okada riders who resorted to that trade because poor electricity supply precluded them from pursuing more respectable employment.
We refer to artisans like welders, barbers, refrigerator repairers and similar trades that thrive on a constant power supply. There is a large army of unemployed youth who ordinarily would not have considered Okada riding if there are other means of employment. These challenges are the root causes of the burgeoning Okada business. Remove these root causes and the country will not need a formal ban on Okada. It will become unattractive and consequently less problematic.
The argument about banning mining is equally specious. Having abandoned that sector because of a booming petrol dollar, it is time to take back the mines from all comers.
Serious management of the mining sector through legal and regulatory frameworks and the enforcement of extant regulatory frameworks will do the magic. Take back the mines instead of banning them. This should also extend to other neglected sectors such as agriculture, a potential mass employer who gave the right policy, implementation and a conducive environment devoid of killings and harassment by herdsmen.
In sum, banning Okada nationwide and banning mining is a panicky suggestion. It will not address the fundamental causes of banditry and terrorism in Nigeria. Only a well-thought-out plan and faithful implementation devoid of corruption and primordial sentiments can tackle Nigeria’s security challenges.
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