Published On: Thu, May 16th, 2019

The ban on motorcycles

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The Nigeria army recently banned use of motorcycles in forests in seven states where it is fighting armed banditry. Army spokesman, Colonel Sagir Musa, explained that the ban was to give bite to the war on banditry and other crimes responsible for insecurity in the states in the north-west and part of the north-central. The states are Kano, Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto, Kaduna, Kebbi and Niger.
“The Nigerian Army (NA) over time has observed the use of motorcycles by armed bandits, kidnappers, criminal elements and their collaborators as enablers to perpetrate their heinous crimes especially in the states within the north-west geopolitical zone of the country,” Musa said in a statement. “In this wise, it is hereby reiterated that the use of motorcycles remains banned within the forest areas in these states.” He warned that “Anyone caught using motorcycles within the named areas will be taken for an armed bandit, criminal and kidnapper with dire consequences.” The army acknowledged that the ban would inconvenience law-abiding citizens in the seven states, but noted that it was “necessary to explore all means possible to stop the activities of these bandits across the north-western part of Nigeria.” Sagir called on the governments of the affected states to enforce the ban in conjunction with security agencies.
It is true that banditry in the North-west, Zamfara state particularly, has overwhelmed the police. Over the years hundreds of people have been killed and maimed. The economy of the zone has dipped as a result. The inability of the police to take the fight to the bandits has forced the federal government to call in the military and other security forces. Still the bandits, because of their ubiquity facilitated by the use of motorcycles in the inaccessible forests, are always kilometers ahead of the security agencies. To slow them down, therefore, requires something extraordinary, something out of the box. A ban on the motorcycle must be it. “All means possible,” the army said.
However, much as we support the fight against banditry, we disagree over the ban because it is not workable, given the experience elsewhere, the north-east in particular ravaged by the Boko Haram insurgency. We fear that the ban will deprive those lawful Nigerians engaged in commercial motorcycling of a veritable means of livelihood. Not finding an alternative, they may be forced to swell the ranks of the bandits the ban is intended to fight.
We agree with ASIS International, a group of security professionals, that says there are “more impactful measures” that the military should consider. According to it, the motorcycle is not as deadly as the guns and ammunition that the bandits have access to. “We would have thought that the army would take measures to prevent access to these weapons … They ought to have taken measures to stop the sources of funding and arms for the bandits rather than use of motorcycles. We are not aware if the army had taken any measure to stop the collection of ransom by these bandits because the whole objective of the kidnap-for-ransom is to get money.” The army should consider those suggestions rather than take decisions such as the motorcycle ban that end up alienating the civilian population. Its support must be enlisted in the war on banditry for it to succeed. The success story of the civilian volunteers in the counter-insurgency campaign in the north-east should be an eye-opener.

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