Thursday, 16 October 2014

Achaba Ban in Kaduna State

Achaba Ban in Kaduna State
On May 7, 2014, the Governor of Kaduna State, Alh Mukhtar Ramalan Yero, signed into law a bill banning the use of motorbikes for commercial commuter services, popularly known as Achaba, in three major cities of the state namely: Kaduna, Zaria and Kafanchan. The law will take effect on May 21, 2014. For many onlookers, it was a rare show of courage on the part of the state government and, very specifically, Gov Yero himself.
The idea of the ban was mooted much earlier on, during the ebbing days of the late Gov Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa. The simple reason behind the policy was security. The Achaba riders had become a major and present risk to security in the state. With the rise of terrorism in the north, a lot of such acts were being perpetrated on so called commercial bikes. Also, the state experienced horde of commercial motorcyclists who trooped into the state, having been banned from virtually all neighboring cities and states. The effect of that turned out to be not just the sheer volume of lawless bikers on the streets, but many young and energetic men without address rendering transportation services in the city. It was of course not in doubt that most of these Achaba riders, probably over sixty-five percent of them, were not originally from or based in Kaduna state and many never really cared to take up meaningful accommodation, which will demonstrate that they were ready to live in and have proper stakes in the state. Therefore a lot of them slept in the open air, in mosques, in filling stations and within the precincts of shopping plazas around the city. The implication of this is that anything could go wrong, given such a huge army that has nothing to lose and can move on to the next available location without blinking. It even got to the point that these “homeless” commercial bikers allegedly became targets of extortion by errant men of the police force to the point that some resistance of sorts was beginning to brew among the former, which portended grave consequences.
Sometime early last year after Yero became governor, the immediate past Commissioner of Information in the state, Hon Sa’idu Adamu, in a briefing after a state executive council meeting, mentioned the proposed ban as part of the issues discussed. The reaction was deafening against the move from a vocal section of the population within the state, which was quite surprising given the security reality in the state and the north. The state government was stampeded into eating her words, claiming that the commissioner actually went ahead of himself on the issue. This particular recanting by the Yero administration, by the way, gave some quarters in the state the balls that his is a weak government which can always be intimidated in the event of any policy they consider unfavourable: and we have seen such muscles flexed.
Of course the security situation in the country, especially the north, has become more and more dire and it has become clear to the Kaduna state government that, no matter how much it wants to remain politically correct, it has to take some difficult decisions and the ban on Achaba is one of such. While many people have applauded Yero and his government for the courage in this direction and are ready to make the sacrifice needed to better secure our own part of northern Nigeria, there are others who, like before, have harangued the government. They claim that some people are being denied a source of livelihood by that law. True, some people will lose livelihood as a result of the ban but an example will suffice here. War, as bad as it is, provides some people with legitimate means of livelihood, not to mention the illegitimate, and examples abound in Nigeria to this effect. Does that mean that war should continue, or that effort should not be made to stop it, simply because it provides food for some people? By the way can anybody really claim that being an Achaba rider is a long term means of livelihood? On another count, should we continue to wallow in uncouth systems and not seek to progress and modernize as a society simply because people feed from the subsisting disorder?
Right now the commercial bike union in the state, along with Comrade Shehu Sani’s Civil Rights Congress, has taken the state government to court, the outcome remains to be seen. Some of the Achaba boys have started leaving the state in search of other operations areas. Gov Yero himself has promised more tricycles, in addition to the 700 others including cabs and buses already provided since last year, to palliate the immediate inconveniences brought about by the new law. He has also promised more job opportunities in addition to earlier interventions under the SURE-P scheme. He must keep his promises.

Published on BLUEPRINT Newspaper; May 15, 2014

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