9 March 2013

Nigeria: How Kano Residents Groan Under 'Achaba' Ban

It is a little over two months now that the ban on the operation of commercial motorcycles popularly known as 'okada' or 'acaba' within the city centre of Kano, was imposed. This decision is being seen and interpreted differently by different individuals. Some believe the ban was belated, others are of the view that the government has been too harsh with ban.

For Aminu Abdullahi a father of four, the ban on motorcycle has greatly affected the schooling of his children as a result of the ban, saying since the ban hardly could he afford the transport fare of his children to school.

"If security issues are being attached to the ban, why should it affect parents taking their children or wives on motorcycles? I have two children I take to school on my motorcycle; I used to take them along with me on my way to work and on my way back home I will take them along. This has been my daily routine from Monday to Friday, I have planned it this way to reduce the cost of transportation. And ever since the ban on motorcycle my whole plan was dashed out. I cannot afford the exorbitant fares of tricycle (Adaidaita Sahu). At times my children miss classes for two to three days in a week and this is affecting their school activities greatly," he said.

"For a man earning as low as N27,000 a month, how do you expect me to pay N2,000 every week just to transport my two children to school? I have made up my mind to transfer my kids to a nearby school though the services rendered there is of low standard," concluded Abdullahi.

For Musa Iro a low income earner working with a private firm in the city, the ban on commercial motorcycle has negatively affected his child schooling. Before the ban, commercial motorcycle has been his son's major means of transportation to school. With the ban, Iro claimed that he and his son walk half the distance before he could board the tricycle that will take his son to school.

"I always look forward to Fridays, because it means I and my son will have a rest for two days. And I dreaded Mondays because it means another long five days of walking to school. Had it been I have a choice I could have opted for a nearby school, but the issue here is that those schools near us are not up to standard and if things continued this way, it means we are doomed; our children's education will be crippled," he said.

The ban also is taking its toll on those who once used the means to assist their relations.. Some motorcycle owners in Rijiyar Zaki, an outskirt of Kano metropolis said the banning of carrying two people has exposed them to hardship.

Mr. Hassan Felix a carpenter whose shop is located in Tal'udu area said before the banning he used to commute to his place of together with his two younger brothers who also work in the shop.

"I recently bought the motorcycle to ease the transport difficulties we encounter when going to work, especially after we close from work in the evening," he said, adding that, "now I have to give them N200 daily as transport fare excluding feeding allowance. So the development affected my income greatly."

In part, Malam Aliyu Ibrahim another motorcycle owner in Rijiyar Zaki said the banning affected him greatly. He said he and his wife teach in the same school, as such they went to work together on his motorcycle.

"I used to take my wife to her place of work in a secondary school at Goron Dutse, which happens to be close to my place of work, but since the banning I am left with no choice than to allow her enter commercial vehicles," he said.

Also narrating her ordeal, the wife Malama Fatima Aliyu said since the banning she no longer reaches her place on time. "Sometime I reach after first period a development that my employers are not happy with," she said.

"I am appealing to government to consider revising the ban to at least allow carrying women and children especially students," She added.

Mrs. Grace Francis, a pharmacist, told Weekly Trust that "tThe ban of bikes has really been affecting me. I now have to trek to and fro my working place every day. Getting tricycle that is heading your way is sometimes difficult. And when you eventually do, they won't want to drop you at your door post which those achabas always do."

She implored the government to make these tricycles readily available to meet the masses' demands and also impose a standardized pricing system because the fare charged by most of the tricycle operators is alarming.

Prior to the suspension of both commercial and private motorcycles in Kano by the government in January, there had been much debate on the role of bikes in the persistent gun attacks blamed on bike-riding shooters across the state.

Many people believe that barring bikes from operating in the state could help reduce the frequency of attacks while others argue that apart from bikes, gunmen also use other means of transportation like cars and tricycles to launch their attacks.

The state was at the onset so skeptical on outright ban on 'Acaba'. Just some few days after the state Commissioner for Information Professor Farouk Umar Jibrin made it public that the Kano State government will not wipe commercial motorcycling being a source of income for millions of youths in the state, the state government took many by surprise when it announced the ban on commercial motorcycles. The attack on Emir of Kano Alhaji Ado Bayero by bike-riding gunmen, who killed six persons and wounded several others including Bayero's two sons, is seen as the reason that hastily prompted the government to swiftly impose the ban.

The government buses and taxes are grossly inadequate, even though some private individuals have waded in to save the situation. This reality has an adverse effect on social and economic intercourse, which the authorities of the state government should try to urgently address.

It is true that many people had lost their limbs and worse still, their lives to the reckless Okada riders. However, the ban has already put a strain on Kano residents who are finding it difficult to commute to their various destinations due to inadequate public transport facilities.

Achaba, according to the analysts was introduced in the 1990s one of the means of self-sustaning means of livelihood after the industrial glut in Kano and other major cities in the north. The closure of the companies led to massive job losses that affected millions of youths across the region.

Moreover, the politicians took it to be another means via which they can mar of make their supporter's lives. They distribute motorcycles before and after elections as a means of empowering their supporters and their allies. Within a short time, the Okada became an institution to reckon with not only in Kano State but also in all major cities of the federation.

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