PORT HARCOURT- Stakeholders have expressed deep concern over plan by the Federal Government to ban the operation of commercial motorcycles across the country.
They appealed to government to provide alternative means of livelihood to commercial motorcycle operators before banning the use.
The people expressed their concern in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in the South-South.
They said that the ban would cause more hardship to Nigerians, especially those in the rural areas, who depended on motorcycles as the only means of transport due to the deplorable condition of roads.
The respondents urged government to restrict the ban to cities and areas bedeviled by terrorism and banditry.
NAN recalls that few weeks ago, the federal government announced that it was considering a ban on the use of commercial motorcycles across the country.
Government’s intention was informed by the massive deployment of motorbikes by terrorists, bandits and kidnappers in their criminal activities.
Mr Isreal Promise said in Port Harcourt that government should provide an alternative means of livelihood for commercial motorcyclists before banning the operation.
“We know about the insecurity in the north and other parts of the country. We understand that bandits and terrorists operate more with bikes.
“In most states, robbery and kidnapping in the rural areas are done with bikes and tricycles.
“But if there are other alternatives means that government will put in place to help people in moving to their places or or business, the ban can be effective,” he said.
He said that stopping the use of motorcycles without providing alternative means of livelihood would cause massive unemployment and increase insecurity in the country.
A clergy, Paul Achiubo, said the proposed ban would increase unemployment and hardship, especially for those living in the rural areas.
“Most roads in the rural areas of the country are not motorable; only bikes can be used on such roads,” he said.
Another Port Harcout resident, Mrs Blessing Godwin, called for proper monitoring of motorcycle riders to prevent them from committing crimes with motorcycles.
In Calabar, Mr Gill Nsa, the Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Cross River Council, said an outright ban on commercial motorcycles in Nigeria might backfire.
Nsa said although there were serious security concerns in the nation aggravated by the increased use of commercial motorcycles, the welfare of the users should also be considered.
“An outright ban will affect ordinary Nigerians who need bikes to enter areas that are not motorable and those that use it as a source of livelihood.
“I have seen people who grew from being commercial motorcyclists to buying their own taxis and commercial buses.
“If government imposes a total ban, many people will be pushed into crime; there must be a balance to this.
“I think the ban should be in the cities, but in the rural areas where people know one another and can easily identify strangers, commercial motorcyclists should be allowed to operate,” he said.
On her part, Mrs Theresa Akpan, a civil servant, said that before any ban on commercial motorcycle, there should be an alternative source of livelihood for people in the business.
According to her, government should know that commercial motorcyclists are not the cause of insecurity in Nigeria and fight the root causes.
“Already it is difficult to feed. Many of the riders are educated with degrees but there are no other jobs for them or loans from government to enable them to start other businesses.
“Our roads are bad; there are many communities in this country that you can access with only motorcycles. So government should think critically before effecting any nationwide ban,” she said.
A trader at the popular Marian Market, Calabar, Mr Adam Ekong, said the proposed ban was proper because it would improve security.
He however added that it shoud be restricted to areas experiencing insurgency and banditry.
For Mr Osagie Osayande, the Planning Officer in Ikpoba-Okha Local Government Council of Edo, commercial motorcycle riding is the major means of transportation in rural areas.
“The ban will affect movement, especially transportation of farm produce from one location to another. It will also render many commercial motorcyclists jobless and increase crime rate,” he said.
Osayande further told NAN in Benin that the intended ban was necessary, but should be effected in only areas with serious security challenges such as terrorism and banditry.
Another respondent, Mrs Jenifer Idemudia of Nigeria Correctional Service, Edo Command, said motorcycles had generated employment for millions of citizens.
According to her, there are plants in the country where motorcycles are assembled after being imported.
She further said some factories locally manufactured the plastic components of motorcycles, using local rubber from different states, including Edo.
A commercial motorcyclist, Emmanuel Kenneth, said the ban would compound the problems of commercial motorcyclists and make their lives miserable and vulnerable.
Oh his part, Mr Felix Azibaola, Chairman, Tricycle Riders Association, Bayelsa, also said in Yenagoa that government should provide alternative means of livelihood for commercial motorcyclists before the ban.
He said that commercial motorcycles gradually gained acceptance as a result of inadequate transport facilities and bad state of roads in the country, especially in the hinterland.
A respondent in Uyo, Mr Patrick Titus, described the intended ban as a bad economic policy and said that majority of the commercial motorcyclists earned their living from the operation.
Titus added that the proposed ban would not be in the best interest of the people as a many Nigerians used motorcycles as means of transportation.
He said that motorcycle riding for commercial purposes had reduced unemployment in the country.
He called on the federal government to find a lasting solution to the problem of insecurity as the proposed total ban would be counter productive.
“If we have people who are using motorcycles for dubious activities, there are still people using them for good economic purposes.
Does the federal government have alternative means of transportation for the people?
“If government does not have alternative means to convey people in rural areas to their different locations, then the ban will have a very serious economic implications across the country,” he added.
A motorcyclists in Eket, Mr Kingsley Asam, said however that he was not against the plan, but wanted government to find ways of cushioning the effect it would have on the masses.
According to him, banning commercial motorcycles in the country would bring more problems if government fails to provide alternative means of livelihood for the operators.
Another respondent in Eket, Mr Kunle Gbenga, called on local governments across the country to register all commercial motorcyclists for proper monitoring.
A civil servant in Asaba, Mr. Steve Oboko, told NAN that rather than ban commercial motorcycles, government should think of ways to regulate the operators for effecient and secured services.
“If you take look at this “okada” business in our society today, you will agree with me that it is a booming business venture.
“We are talking of a business that has engaged milliions of men – young and old – and provided means of livelihood to many families.
“If you ask me, “okada” operations is not the security problem facing Nigeria. So, why sacrifice the business for nothing?
“So, putting an end to such business will have serious economic and security implications on many families and the society in general,” Oboko said.
Also, a housewife, Mrs Ozioma Chukwuka, said government should think twice before banning commercial motorcycles, in view of the prevailing state of the nation’s economy.
According to her, many commercial motorcyclists are the breadwinners of their families, and pushing them out of busuness will be subject them to untold hardship.
“There is no sufficient paid jobs in Nigeria today and that is why many young men are struggling today to make ends meet,” she said
Chukwuka called on government to deploy other effective means to check the increasing wave of insecurity, and added that motocyclists were not the cause of the nation’s security challenges.
Another respondent, Miss Pauline Ebokandu, said government should come up with a blueprint to make the business safer and better.
She said outright ban on it would rather worsen insecurity challenges as many of the operators might resort to crimes.
“We should know that an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. If these commercial motorcyclists are thrown out of job, many of them will go into crimes to survive,” Ebokandu said. (NAN)