No to the total ban on motorcycles

To combat the current national insecurity in Nigeria, the Federal Government has recently proposed
a ban on the operations of commercial motorcyclists, otherwise known as “Okada” drivers, across the country. This recommendation is another indication that deep or scientific thinking does not characterize the way decisions are made in the nation’s halls of power. It is a problem that any competent government can solve without throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
The federal government, through the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, had openly stated that the National Security Council, chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari, could be forced to ban the motorcycle use and mining after it was discovered to remain a major means of travel for bandits and a source of ransom for kidnap victims.
Sadly, these are people for whom the government has failed miserably to provide meaningful employment or any form of lasting empowerment, even though many of them are well-educated and have families and dependents. Apart from the economic and security implications, the programme, if implemented, will impoverish millions of Nigerians and further aggravate the anti-social vices that the authorities are struggling to contain.
Commuters see motorcycles as a great relief from their transportation difficulties while cyclists see their adventure as a source of income. Undoubtedly, the use of motorcycles has improved the mobility of the middle class and other wage earners, which, by extension, has contributed enormously to an increase in production through an increase in working hours. Many commercial motorcyclists are in the business because they have no options and are not interested in committing a crime.
The bikes offer certain advantages of easy maneuverability, ability to travel on bad roads, and responsiveness on demand. We cannot wish them as a means of transport. The government should be cautious in its decision. States should undertake repairs of all damaged roads where ‘Okada’ activities thrive due to the refusal of commercial vehicles to use these roads. The LGs should repair the interior roads. Of the country’s total road network of 195,000 kilometers, only 35,000 are federal, leaving the rest to the states and LGs.
If all the people who will be made unemployed by this plan turn to crime, how will the government be able to cope? It is wrong to attribute all movements of terrorists to motorcycles, because criminals also operate with vehicles. When terrorists attacked Kuje prison, was it the motorcyclists who caused the intelligence failure? How did they get through all the security checkpoints to get to such a fortified facility? Was it the motorcycles that allowed them to run over the security guards attached to the correctional center? Were the motorcycles also responsible for the late reinforcement?
Although banning the use of motorcycles may reduce the logistical supply and the source of funding for the purchase of weapons from terrorists, there must be well thought-out alternatives to mitigate the effects of loss of means of consequent sustenance for those who be affected. It must not aggravate the disastrous economic situation of the country.
A World Bank report noted that the number of poor people in Nigeria will increase to 95.1 million in 2022. In 2020, this figure was 89.0 million people. More than 6.1 million additional people would have fallen into the poverty bracket between 2020 and 2022, an increase of 6.7%. With figures projected for 2022, the number of poor people in Nigeria has increased by 14.7% over four years, from 82.1 million in 2018/19 to 95.1 million in 2022. The poverty rate was favored by the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, population growth, high inflation rate and the adverse effects of the war between Ukraine and Russia.
The development comes after the Nigerian government said it lifted 10.5 million citizens out of poverty between 2019 and 2021. The president has repeatedly said that the Bank of Industry has created nine million jobs in the country. since 2015, and various programs to create jobs and fight against poverty have been launched; these have failed to stem poverty. Therefore, if the suggested ban is implemented, many Nigerians will be directly affected, including their families.
Motorcycle bans may not be new in some Southeast and South-South states where commercial bikes have long been banned. Additionally, Lagos State has restricted ‘Okada’ in certain local government areas. States like Kebbi, Sokoto, Borno, Yobe and Zamfara have banned their activities altogether while Katsina has restricted their operations in some frontline local governments. A selective ban on this mode of transport in troubled areas is the way forward, not a nationwide ban.
However, the federal government’s proposal goes beyond its constitutional jurisdiction. In a federal regime, it is the states and local governments that would have to impose and enforce such a ban. Federal authorities can only enforce the ban in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), on federal interstate highways, and in any state where an emergency rule is in effect. At best, it can only persuade States of the urgent need for such a radical embargo to combat insecurity.
A general prohibition must result in a provision providing for alternatives. Otherwise, the government will only expand the army of criminals and terrorists. Managing motorcyclist crime is a matter of competent governance. They can be trained, authorized and assigned to areas of operations. They should be forced to belong to unions that are accountable to the government so that the criminals among them can be easily caught.
In parts of the country where motorcycles have become the mode of transport for terrorists and other criminals, tricycles, bicycles and minibuses may be used to replace them, at least for now. This will easily isolate terrorists on bicycles. In addition, the federal government should stem illegal immigration from the Sahel to Nigeria. Indeed, many of the insurgents are foreigners working with their Nigerian cohorts.
“Okada” riders must conduct themselves in an orderly manner with proper identification. This will help security guards tame insecurity and catch criminals using motorcycles to perpetrate evil. The country’s security situation is unstable. It must be realized that in overcoming the threat, the consequences of every decision must be properly assessed. The unemployment and insecurity that haunt Nigeria will worsen if the government follows through on his proposal.

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