In a normal setting, the Federal Government’s recently announced plan to ban mining activities and commercial motorcycle (Okada) operations would sound odd and rather childish. These are matters which competent governance can solve without throwing the baby away with the bath water.
After a security meeting chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari last week, the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, informed the media that terrorists use Okada to abduct people for ransom. They also engage in illegal mining to raise money for their operations. According to him, government considers these bans as the appropriate response to the problem.
How can a serious country shut down mining activities because of the activities of criminals and terrorists? Is it not the duty of government to stop the criminals from engaging in the illegal act?
Because of easy oil rents, Nigeria has found it difficult to develop the solid minerals sector which experts say can bring N50 trillion into the economy per annum? The National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, reports that in 2021, Nigeria earned a paltry N43.37 billion, representing 0.37 of total trade in Q4 that year.
With regard to the planned Okada ban, we wonder what business the Federal Government has with commercial motorcycles. It should be left to the various state governments to decide on what to do with Okada in their respective states. If the Federal Government feels the need to take such a step, it should work with the governors.
Though we support the restriction of commercial motorcycles in big metropolises like Lagos, we still recognise the fact that they provide millions of Nigerians their means of livelihood. Before we consider a blanket ban, we must provide alternatives. Otherwise, we will merely be adding to the army of criminals and terrorists.
Handling the lawlessness of Okada operators is a matter of competent governance. They can be trained, licensed and allocated to an area of operation. They can be made to belong to unions that are accountable to government so that lawbreakers can easily be nabbed. These unions can quickly identify any strange operator in their jurisdictions and report accordingly.
In parts of the country where motorcycles have become the mode of transport for terrorists and other criminals, tricycles, bicycles and mini-buses can be used to replace motorcycles, at least for now. Thus, terrorists on motorcycles can be easily isolated.
The Federal Government should do its own work of stemming illegal immigration from the Sahel into Nigeria. Many of the terrorists are foreigners working with their Nigerian cohorts. The closure of mines is not a solution. Rather, all legal mines should be fortified with security and digital surveillance. We cannot flee from criminals and terrorists. They should flee from us!