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Okada and terrorism challenge

Terrorism has historically proven itself an opportunistic endeavour often feeding off what disruption or distortion there is at any point in time to achieve its…

Terrorism has historically proven itself an opportunistic endeavour often feeding off what disruption or distortion there is at any point in time to achieve its goals.

Over the years, a major part of the human experience of terrorism has been that terrorists have taken advantage of what should ordinarily provide some relief to supply horror instead. In this wise, the unfolding situation with commercial motorcyclists popularly known as okada is indeed telling.

Whether it is the truth or just a case of stereotyping, for as long as it has been used for commercial purposes, okada has come to be associated with crime and criminals. In the beginning, allegations bordered mostly on petty crimes; recently, however, terrorism has come into the mix.

A meeting of the National Security Council in Abuja last week yielded the fact that a nationwide ban on okada was being considered. The consideration was apparently as a result of the fact that intelligence had shown that okada is being used by terrorists in mining activities and transportation.

A lethal link

It appears there is an inexorable link between okada and violent crime in Nigeria. Terrorists have been known to attack Nigerian communities in their hundreds; perched on motorcycles, and armed with sophisticated weapons.

Some of the terrorists who attacked the Kuje prison on July 5 were said to have spent months in Kuje prior to the attack, posing as okada riders.

Terrorists, who run Nigeria’s booming kidnapping-for-ransom business, have also been known to ask for motorcycles as part of the ransom.

A raw nerve

However, for many Nigerians, the proposal to ban okada has hit a raw nerve. For them, the ban would amount to criminalizing poverty by plunging about 98 million Nigerians, living below the international poverty line, into more hardship.

Those who oppose the proposed ban have also argued that any such ban would further swell Nigeria’s pool of unemployment which will only flood the country with crime and criminals.

For many others, the government is again chasing rats while its house burns.

A dialogue with the deaf

However, it would also appear that the government has a point in arguing that public interest must be put above personal interest when looking at the proposed ban.

Many also expect a government, which has unfortunately struggled to handle similar situations in the past to make a better fist of things if it eventually decides to go ahead with the ban.

If the ban eventually comes into fruition, the okada riders would have themselves to blame for failing to rein in their members.

They have associations and should be able to regulate their activities. From time to time, those associations have been engaged by the government and other interested stakeholders on ways to make those who ride okada accountable for their actions.

But it appears that each time, what has ensued has been little more than a dialogue with the deaf, with those who ride okada doing nothing to curb the violent streak which is seemingly part of their DNA.

Now that evidence has shown that they host terrorists within their ranks, who pose grave threats to the security of the country, it appears that a ban is only a matter of time.

For in all, Nigeria cannot be held to ransom by the activities of those who in failing to account for their actions are forcing Nigeria to count the cost of their inactions.

Kene Obiezu writes from Abuja