BY CARL UMEGBORO

Recently, the Lagos governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, outlawed commercial motorcycles and tricycles in the state leading to pandemonium and criticisms from every nooks and crannies of the state. From government’s side, the action was targeted at reducing the crime rate in the society. 

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Admitted, most of the heinous crimes are perpetrated in collusion with motorcycles operators popularly called “Okada” which clearly manifested recently by the arrest of ‘Okadas’ with handguns and other arms concealed inside parts of motorcycles, which could only be detected with eagle’s eyes. Kudos to the Police Intelligence Response Team (IRT) led by DCP Abba Kyari. The group have continued to show expertise in the career, and therefore deserve encomiums. 

However, as the society is tensed up over unemployment ratio, it must be noted that tricycle and motorcycle transportation have been bridging the gap on unemployment, and thereby contributing positively in a measure to security of lives and properties. The question is; if with the engagement of such a great population of operators, security challenges are pronounced in the society, what will happen when they do not have means of livelihood? Sensibly, there will be fire on the mountain. 

To ban masses means of livelihoods without first providing alternatives is not ideal. Many of the operators opted for the vocation as a last resort after some ugly incidents knocked them out of the ring. Presently, there’s no welfare packages for the masses, and the microfinance banks that are supposed to support SMEs (Small and Medium-Scale Enterprises) do not help matters. Clearly, there are no sufficient job opportunities even for the employable class as available in other countries. Many that are willing to work are roaming around. 

Suffice to say that Lagos state government should responsibly plan it well, instead, it could put stringent measures in place towards organizing and monitoring it adequately for security reasons. Particularly, there should be compulsory registration of the operators and essentially, restricted in some designated routes. For operation in the highway, certainly, that’s a no-go area. 

a society that neglects the masses in their planS cannot wake up with radical changes overnight

However, what then becomes the fate of residents in the remote area that due to bad roads can with less difficulty move around through motorcycles. Suffice to say that it goes beyond banning but putting necessary infrastructures in place. If there are good roads for vehicles to ply especially mini-buses, certainly, many commuters will not go for motorcycles or tricycles.   

The ban similarly occurred in the Federal Capital Territory leaving commuters to suffer in moving around since the long buses in the fleet of Abuja Urban Mass Transit Company are insufficient and therefore rarely available at needed times. Commuters are getting excessively stressed up in the Federal Capital Territory unlike before while going to work and other places. So, governments must always ensure that palliative measures are put in place before adopting radical policies so as not to imperil the same lives they intend to protect. Government is essentially about service to the people. 

Without doubt, the operators will find themselves in extreme tight corner without any means of survival. If government had designated mini-buses with a hire-purchase scheme as a model, the motorcycle and tricycle operators could key in, and the idea would be unique but to chase out poor masses that are struggling to survive without any provision for them is unconsciously endorsing insecurity. 

Absurdly, this is a society where a minister, or lawmaker goes around in official fleets worth over N100 million, yet, ordinary social facilities to the masses are unavailable. The outrageous allowances in the legislative arm is a no-go area. Government must ensure that its policies no matter how good they may become in the long run do not first drain the masses. 

To expect every business to operate in a modern plaza is a positive plan, however, not realistic vis-à-vis different financial capacities. Rome, they say, was not built in a day. As a coin has two sides, so is any society. Hence, there is need for equilibrium to be able carry both sides along. Otherwise, democracy may shift to become a government of the affluent and for the affluent. So far, the masses are not participants in reality, but reserved valuable assets for campaigns just to get into power. After the phase, everyone on his own. 

Recently, a former ‘distinguished senator’ in Twitter brashly justified his passion for insatiably acquiring luxurious automobiles when the people in his locality are living in abject poverty. Not even a factory or serious business of his anywhere to create jobs for his people, but displaying customized posh cars in the garage with special numbers. Yet, during their campaigns, the masses will put their lives into it for little or nothing.  

Also recently, about 40 stout bank accounts in foreign and local currencies were allegedly traced to former Abia governor and serving senator, Theodore Orji and his son, Chinedu; Speaker of the Abia State House of Assembly by the anti-graft agency which buttressed the point well. Imagine the ones yet to be traced.  

No wonder many unoccupied estates littered in many places particularly in the Federal Capital Territory with no identifiable owners possibly for fear of the investigation. The Nigeria’s democracy presently reflects ‘lootocracy’ than democracy. Apparently, the military sold a looting template to the people, and not democracy as practiced around the world. 

To sum, a society that neglects the masses in their plans cannot wake up with radical changes overnight, otherwise, the good policy may end up doing more harm than good. There are millions of adults willing to engage in one lawful endeavor or the other, but find themselves handicapped due to unavailability of jobs and capital. Ideally, any responsible and committed government must take cognizance of this, and put them in blueprints prior to bans.   

Umegboro is a public affairs analyst and Associate, Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (United Kingdom). 08023184542 – SMS only. 

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