Motorcycle operators popularly called Okada have warned that the proposed ban of commercial motorcycles as part of measures to tackle security challenges in the country will not only make 40 million Nigerians jobless but also create the worst monster behind terrorism.
The Okada operators under the aegis of the Amalgamated Commercial Tricycle and Motorcycle Owners, Repairs and Riders Association of Nigeria (ACOMORAN) gave the warning on Monday at a media briefing in Abuja.
The Federal Government through the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, had announced that the National Security Council, chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari, might be compelled to ban the use of motorcycles and mining activities after the discovery that it remained a major means of movement by bandits and source of amassing ransom from kidnap victims.
Malami had added that those using motorcycles as means of transport were not up to 20 per cent of the country’s population, adding that if that percentage is made to sacrifice “I think that sacrifice is not too much and is worthy of being considered.”
Briefing journalists in Abuja, the National President of ACOMORAN, Samsudeen Apelogun, advised the federal government to jettison the idea of a blanket ban on their operations and rejig the security architecture of the country.
Apelogun, who said their membership base stands at 12 million nationwide, with six million adequately registered, stated that the idea of banning the use of motorcycles nationwide would be counterproductive in the long run.
He said, “Without any attempt to join issues with the Honourable Minister and working with his statistics, the Council is proposing to put an end to the means of mobility and source of living of forty million Nigerians directly.
“Painfully, these are people whom the government failed to provide with meaningful employment or any form of sustainable empowerment, even though many of us are well read with families and other dependents.”
The National President of ACOMORAN, who warned of the economic and security implications, said besides impoverishing millions of Nigerians, it would further compound the anti-social vices the government was trying to contain.
Apelogun, who said higher crimes were being committed through the use of cars and buses, added that a majority of the motorcycle operators don’t live in the forest and ply their trade majorly in the cities.
Apelogun said, “Commuters see motorcycles as a relief to their transportation problems while motorcycle riders see their adventure as a source of livelihood. Without a doubt, the use of motorcycles has enhanced mobility for the middle-class and other income earners which by extension has contributed to an increase in production through an increase in man-hours.
“Let me put it on record that from experience, 95 per cent of those you see riding motorcycles are doing it because they don’t have better options but they don’t want to take to crime.
“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? Was it motorcycles that made it possible for them to overpower the security agents attached to the facility? Are motorcycles also responsible for the late re-enforcement?
He continued, “If the security architecture is not working, the government should rejig it or do a total overhauling instead of blaming motorcycle operations for the failure of security agencies, thereby creating another monster that will ultimately add salt to injury.”
Moreso, he advised the government to concentrate on how to alleviate the agonies of the citizenry. On the possible solutions, the ACOMORAN president provided some practical ideas on how to fight criminality.
According to him, “First, the government should revive the economy for businesses to thrive. Today, the naira exchanges at N630 to a US Dollar, and this deals a terrible blow to businesses. The epileptic natures of our power supply have grounded many small-scale industries thereby making it difficult for artisans to operate.
“If a solution is found to power supply today, I am very confident that many of the youths who are involved in criminality will be gain-fully emplpyed or engaged.
“In summary, if the government can provide a stable power supply, organize the Bank of Transportation to cater to the transportation sector, revive our economy, make naira exchange at a reasonable rate against the dollar and other foreign currencies, provide infrastructure and an enabling environment for businesses and investors to drive or ply their trades as well as provide security agencies, especially the police that is in charge of the enforcement of law and order with the need d tools and motivation. To work, the rate of criminality will drastically drop to a minimal level.”