opinionBy Safiya I. Dantiye
I went to Kano last weekend shortly after the suspension of commercial motorcycles , or motorcycle taxis if you like, known as acaba in the city. There was something strange about the streets, then I realised it was the absence of the acaba riders.
The suspension of the acaba riders came at the heels of the attack on the emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero by gunmen on Saturday, January 19, this year. He was on his way from a Qur'anic graduation ceremony at Masallacin Murtala when gunmen attacked his convey, killing four and injuring many, including the emir's two sons.
Before the attack on the emir, there have been attacks by gunmen riding motorcycles.
The Kano State Deputy Governor, Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje said in a statement , "After a meeting with security agencies and a careful study of their reports, we noticed that it has become necessary to suspend motorcycle riders from carrying passengers as from Thursday, 24 January, 2013."
"Motorcyclists are required to register their bikes in order to ensure safety of their own lives and those of public members. We urge the bikers to go back to their respective local governments to register for their own benefit and that of others," he added.
However, even private motorcycles are not allowed to carry passengers.
This suspension as expected has generated mixed reactions. Those that rely on acaba for their livelihood said their source of income has been taken away.
The chairman of bike riders union in Kano, Alhaji Muhammad Hassan Sani, said the suspension, "will put over 1.5 million people out of job" in the state.
On the other hand, some people actually welcomed the idea and wanted outright ban, not suspension, to sanitise the city of pollution and congestion since it allows for easier traffic flow.
Politicians have contributed immensely to the huge numbers of acaba, because as their way of 'empowerment' they usually buy hundreds of motorcycles and give to the youths.
Beneficiaries of motorcycles given at the local governments, do not do the acaba business there, but often come to Kano city thereby compounding the congestion.
And before you know it, acaba has almost overtaken our transport system. People employ the acaba riders to take their children to school and bring them back.
In any case, Kano has become the dumping ground in Nigeria. When acaba was banned in Abuja some few years ago, it was Kano they rushed to. With also the banning in Borno and Yobe states, and threat in Plateau state, some went to Kano.
These are the people that disregard traffic laws and ride anyhow, ready to abuse you if you talk to them for offending you.
And as we are used to living kara zube (without regard to laws), the acaba riders don't pay tax. If the government were to ask them to pay at least N20.00 per day, they may stage a protest, calling it injustice. Yet they would expect the government to provide good roads and so on.
I also learnt that most of the acaba riders that are not from Kano metropolis sleep on the Trade Fair complex ground and primary schools because they don't have an accommodation. As soon as dawn breaks they wake up and go about their business.
My question is; is the Trade Fair complex their property? Is it not government property? Who gives them permission to use it as their accommodation? Yet, these are people who would protest a tax imposed on them.
The very thought of them sleeping in the Trade Fair and primary schools is chilling, because it is a security risk. You don't know who among them are good citizens and the criminals that hide among them.
If the suspension is lifted and they are back, I suggest they should not be allowed to sleep in the Trade Fair and primary schools. They should go and find accommodation with toilets.
A friend told me those that sleep in the open litter the place with excrement, thus endangering the health of the people.
Then Kaduna state this week said it would also ban acaba, and my first thought was, if it did before Kano, they would surely go to Kano, as usual.
Definitely, with the suspension, there is transport problem, especially as men now seem to have commandeered the tricycles, called a daidaita sahu. When they were first brought by the government they were exclusively for women and children, now some have bought them, so they are free to carry anybody.
The government said it would bring cars, the earlier it does that the better.