A federal government proposal to ban the activities of commercial motorcyclists, also known as okada riders, across the country is a good idea given the insecurity problem in Nigeria. Unfortunately, the federal government’s proposal falls outside the constitutional scope. In reality, the use of commercial motorcycles should be abolished in urban centers and rural areas affected by terrorism and mass kidnappings. But in a federal state, it is the states and local governments that must impose and enforce such a ban.
Certainly the federal government cannot regulate modes of transport in states in a federal structure, which Nigeria operates, albeit disorderly. It should leave that decision to the state governors and LG chairmen, while it (the federal government) enforces the ban in the Federal Capital Territory, on federal highways, and in every state where the emergency rule is in effect. At best, it can convince states of the imperative need for such sweeping bans to combat insecurity. That would be welcome.
All 36 states and the FCT should act swiftly without further delay to enforce a ban on commercial motorcycle activities in the cities where they have become an increasingly thorny side effect. In areas ravaged by bandits and other criminals who use motorcycles to carry out their acts of violence, prohibition and enforcement must be total.
In Lagos, one of the many criminal activities of Okada riders was the confession of a rider arrested in 2016 by the state police commando that he made N10,000 every day for transporting robbers during operations.
As governor of Lagos state (2007-15), Babatunde Fashola had enacted a traffic law banning okada operations on some of the state’s 9,100 roads, among other things. He said: “If you are concerned about safety, you should support the current governor of Lagos in banning okada. As a Center of Excellence, motorcycles should not be our mode of transport.” The ban affected 475 bridges and roads and ensured a safe environment on some LGAs, highways and highways in the state during his tenure.
Governors who are still dragging their feet on the issue must ditch politics and make far-reaching decisions in the interest of their people and the overall development of the states they govern.
In 2005, authorities in Uzbekistan banned motorcycles and scooters to improve safety in the capital and largest city, Tashkent. Violators were heavily fined and a bicycle ban was also considered. This is the right way of thinking to isolate civilians from unnecessary deaths and risks.
There should also be deadlines by state governments in areas where okada activities are to be banned. The effect will no doubt be caustic at first, but the result will surely delight hearts. Measures should then be taken to encourage private bus and taxi companies, while roads and highways should be repaired.
The ban must be fully enforced. Enforcement should be a daily affair, supported by punishment of stubborn drivers and their passengers. The government cannot legislate and go to sleep. Law enforcement agencies must be well-funded, equipped and motivated to perform the task, free from corruption and extortion. The culture of failure to enforce laws encourages lawlessness, impunity and crime.
States must provide private sector-driven efficient modern means of transport. The claim by the Amalgamated Commercial Motorcycles Riders Association of Nigeria that a ban would hamper mobility and the livelihood of millions should be juxtaposed with the negative costs of the widespread use of okada. Aside from fatal accidents and permanent disability, the killings, mutilations, arson, looting and destruction wrought by motorcycle-borne terrorists across the country outweigh the temporary inconvenience.
Three recent successive attacks on the FCT – in Kuje prison, an ambush by Nigerian army troops and a military checkpoint – were carried out by hundreds of terrorists on motorcycles. The ‘bandits’ of the northwest, Islamist terrorists and kidnappers (often operating seamlessly in the three roles), prefer motorcycles as a means of transport.
There should be no place for sentiments when a country’s survival is threatened. More than 7,000 people have been killed by criminals this year alone. Modern transportation systems are drivers of sustainable economies, enabling cleaner, faster and more efficient regions and cities with incredible socio-economic results. That should be the urgent task of the state governors.
Okada activities should be banned outright in Lagos, Ibadan, Port Harcourt, Kano, Kaduna, FCT and other major cities. States must make repairs to all damaged roads where okada activities thrive due to the refusal of commercial bus drivers to follow such routes. LGs should fix back roads. Of the country’s total road network of 195,000 kilometers, only 35,000 are federal, the rest is left to the states and LGs.
Governors have a duty to generate robust and sustainable employment ideas. They must pragmatically empower people and refrain from promoting poverty-enhancing initiatives such as dubious “cash transfers” and giveaways in the form of motorcycles, tricycles and other absurd gifts. Governors play politics with everything in Nigeria instead of working for excellent developments.
Oyo State Governor Seyi Makinde recently said the government had no intention of banning okada, but would only regulate it. This is just politics. Nigerians deserve better modes of transportation and not a vile mode of transportation that comes with huge risks and backlash. The penchant of unscrupulous politicians to take advantage of mass poverty to encourage okada-driving entrenchments is destroying endemic poverty and killing their ability to explore better alternatives.
Buying motorcycles for young people by politicians is grossly misguided, cynical and lazy. Instead, governors must formulate economic policies to stimulate agriculture and SMEs and attract investment.
Passengers should refocus and be fully informed about the dangers of using motorcycles for commercial transportation. They must stop patronizing them for their own safety and the operators to do more dignified work. There are too many ‘weevers’ associated with the horrific activities, causing chaos and confusion in their fields of activity.
The violence of the Okada riders has resulted in the loss of life and property. There must be an end to gross impunity and nagging.