A pressure and economic awareness group, Economic Security Agenda (ESA)has called on the Federal Government of Nigeria to reconsider its planned ban on motorcycles and solid mineral mining nationwide.
A statement by the group release at a press meeting earlier in the week listed the reason why such a policy move would be a grave error and how hurting that would be to the already comatose economy.
The government, according to him, claims that this intention is supposed to be a strategic move to check the escalating insecurity in Nigeria.
Whereas we align with the government on the need to secure this country for the good of all of us, we however disagree with the proposed procedure which we believe would not serve the intended purpose for the reasons we have articulated below:
These sectors embody very important economic activities which are prime to the stability of the country. Undoubtedly, socio-economic security and safety are the core of stability, and only economic security guarantees national security. In Nigeria, like in any other country, societies with higher unemployment have higher crime rates.
Okada is economic incentive
Motorcycle for instance, generates employment for millions of Nigerians who are helpless. These come through the value chain
*Manufacturers – there are factory plants in Nigeria where motorcycles are assembled after they are imported in completely knocked down (CKD) mode. Some plastic ware factories also locally manufacture the rubber and plastic components of the motorcycles, using local rubber loaves from Cross River, Delta, and Edo states. They employ many as 12,300 Nigerians and have also invested as much as N100 billion, some with foreign partners, and these places they have put into existence are not what the government should crush overnight.
This ill-advised ban would further affect the agricultural sector that produces rubber for the local factories. A good instance is a memorandum of understanding between Innoson Motors and the Edo State government early this year on the supply of rubber loaves to Innoson’s plastic wares factory in Enugu which makes plastic parts for the motorcycles he assembles.
*Dealers – there are over 500 Nigerians nationwide that import motorcycles with so many distributors. Between Nnewi, Lagos and Kano, there are at least 45,000 dealers or sellers of spare parts, with each of them employing an average of 10 persons They also provide employment for not less than 760,000 Nigerians who sustain their families through the business.
*Taxi operators – in all the states of Nigeria, there are at least 5.2 million citizens who operate motorcycle taxis commonly called okada. Banning bikes on a nationwide scale would have grave repercussions on the economy and the larger society, especially as the government can’t have any ready alternative.
* Repairers and spare parts dealers – All over Nigeria are not less than 1,000,000
Cumulatively, the motorbike value chain provides jobs for over 20.2 million Nigerians directly and indirectly with an average investment and gross value of over N200 billion, inclusive of those that use it for courier dispatch services.
We are rightly persuaded that the prime obligation of a government is the provision of the right environment for businesses and individuals to thrive, not the opposite.
Okada or motorcycle and Nigerian security challenge
We can’t situate or blame the insecurity in Nigeria on motorbikes. Yes, terrorists are reported to attack towns, villages, and facilities to attack targets on motorbikes. But these are not beyond our security system to confront just because they come on motorbikes? What is the assurance that if they don’t have access to a motorbike, they won’t devise alternatives, since they operate unchallenged most times?
Viewed critically, how could it be justified that a horde of bike-riding criminals travels 10s of kilometers to attack targets, abduct captives, and vanish like in a magic movie? It is quite unthinkable that the security system can’t detect or stop such movement and instead plans a ban on what affords Nigerians a living.
So, using that as justification is like the government punishing us the helpless citizens whose businesses depend on motorbikes as scapegoats for their own failings.
For instance, while these problems linger, our security system in the north has still not enforced the registration of motorcycles as done in the southern part of Nigeria. Beyond disputation, no single motorbike used as a taxi in the Abuja suburbs has plate numbers. Even around the airport very close to the toll point on the airport road in Abuja, it is common to see motorbikes in their pools all without marks or identification on them or on the riders.
The bandits and terrorists use mobile phones to communicate with the families of their victims, so has that made the government to ban the use of mobile phones nationwide? If the terrorists eat food and drink water, should we also ban food and water, nationwide? If they use drugs, we shut down all pharmacies in Nigeria, right?
The criminals also use cars, and do we expect that to be banned in the future to check insecurity?
You refuse to ban nomadic cattle grazing
Since 2016, many Nigerians have factually clamoured for the ban of open nomadic grazing by people of some parts of Nigeria. Thousands of Nigerians have been killed and their deaths are linked to nomadic herdsmen who invade the farms and business places of other Nigerians, killing them, burning down towns and villages, and invading repeatedly. Benue, Kogi, Enugu, Ebonyi, Abia, Ondo, Taraba, Ogun, Oyo, Edo, Ekiti states, and many more, including southern Kaduna and parts of Plateau State, have been living under their siege. Yet, this government blocked the rears to the millions of calls from the people to ban open cattle grazing and restrict them to ranches.
Ironically, in the list of the world’s top cattle owner countries, Nigeria is not counted among the first 20. Only Egypt is an African country on the list. The top countries like India, China, Brazil, Netherlands, etc don’t have cattle roaming the streets. They house them in ranches.
And aware that 85% of Nigeria’s mechanised and modern agriculture is practised in the north through government grants, it baffles why the region resists modernisation of cattle breeding in ranches as other parts of the world do.
Because the cattle is valuable, far more valuable than motorcycles, and are not protected, it becomes a huge attraction to rustlers to go for them and kill in the course of their act. Because the income of the rustlers is not taxable, that leaves them with enormous capital to fuel terrorism against Nigeria.
With the volume of businesses thriving in the motorcycle sub-sector, there is a huge pool of revenue that accrues to the government in duties and taxes through importation and company taxes.
At the prevailing rate of 20% taxes on new vehicles and 15% on used vehicles with effect from April 2022, the mass importation of this product into Nigeria yields a large chunk of revenue that the struggling economy could not afford to lose. It runs into some tens of billions of naira annually.
The FG can consult the Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS) in Nnewi, Lagos, Onitsha, and Kano for the confirmation of this yield.
More than 20 million Nigerians in the motorcycle value chain will be out of job and the country will lose investments worth over N200 billion.
Don’t punish the innocent
The government knows the factors that fuel insecurity and rather prefers to deal with innocent and helpless Nigerians who make a living through motorcycles or okada.
Such an intended ban has multiple effects because in so many cities, there is a proliferation of courier services that use motorcycles for operation. Nigeria already has over 5,300 such courier and dispatch companies in the business. Such a ban will also put all these people out of business and thereby worsen the economic crises of the country, at a time the citizens are going through their worst moments of hardship.
There are motorcycle spare parts dealers and manufacturers who do legitimate business and all would be unjustifiably swept away by such a reckless plan when the government has failed to protect the same people from economic hazards.
It has been advised by experts since 2016 to ban nomadic cattle herding and introduce ranching that would register and identify cattle, the source and their movement. That way, the foreigners that bring in their cattle to kill will no longer operate and the farmer victims would have peace and pursue their lawful economic lives in their localities.
However, when these okada riders, whom about 60 percent of them are northerners, are out of employment due to the planned ban, it is a very easy way to provide terrorist groups with hands to recruit into their squad of killers.
400 Boko Haram sponsors not prosecuted
There have been very serious issues that look like compromises in the past on how the federal government handles the insecurity in Nigeria.
That includes the announced 400 sponsors of Boko Haram the Attorney General of the Federation told the press about in May 2021.
He was quite definite that the FG already had the list ready and will soon commence prosecution. Fourteen months after, we have not heard anything and the big man behaves like he never said that. It is a sickening compromise for a government to have a list of 400 crime suspects whose activities threaten the existence of Nigeria and refuse to do anything.
Recall that in November 2020, six Nigerians were convicted of funding and acting as conduits for Boko Haram financing in Abu Dhabi in the UAE. None of them had anything to do with okada riding or solid minerals mining. Three of them were rather government officials. They didn’t get involved in the terrorism funding through the government or for the government, but for themselves.
Isn’t it rather disheartening that the FG plans to ban okada, but has failed to track down a notorious terrorist, Ada Aleru who was visible when he was turbaned as Sarkin Fulani Yandoton Daji Emirate by Emir Aliyu Marafa in Zamfara State? The security system said it can’t find a man that was made a king as terrorists’ leader just a few hours after the turbaning.
On March 31, 2022, some days after the terrorists attacked the Abuja-Kaduna train, Governor Nasir El Rufai of Kaduna told the press that “the Nigerian authorities know the camps of the terrorists, the identities of the operators and even listens to their conversation.” That was when he called for the bombing of their camps. Did the presence of motorcycles in any way stop the security system from smoking them out?
Unfortunately, however, after the train attack, the Minister of Transportation, Hon Chibuike Amaechi said there was prior information of the attack but that the necessary approval was not made to safeguard the railway track from the incident.
In December 2016, El Rufai said he visited some neighbouring countries and paid Fulani herdsmen with Nigerian money to stop attacking innocent Kaduna citizens, especially the southern Kaduna axis. So, if these people were paid as he said, means they were seen and known. Has that anything to do with okada?
Has our government any justification to throw open our borders to foreigners that cause us pain and destroy our stability, and turn around to ban the lawful means of the livelihood of citizens? Sometime this year, in a live TV discussion, the Bauchi State governor, Bala Mohammed justified the mass migration of Fulani herdsmen of neighbouring countries, arguing that all Fulani of any country belong to Nigeria. So, why visit others with a ban over this deliberate failure?
El Rufai was specific on December 3, 2016, that “Fulani herdsmen from across Africa bring their cattle down towards Middle Belt and Southern Nigeria…some of them are from Niger, Chad, Cameroon, Mali, Senegal. Fulani are in 14 countries and they traverse this country with the cattle.” Pray, what did the FG do to stop this invasion, a henchman of the government and the party revealed?
Because of the porosity of the borders up north, these people stream in unhindered.
In 2020 when the FG had closed most borders down south to the West African countries, Rep. Fatuhu Mohammed representing the Daura/Sandamu/Mai’Adua lamented at the House of Representatives plenary how he deliberately visited the Jibiya border late at night to find that the closure was not effective as goods and people moved freely at night into and out of Nigeria from the Niger Republic.
Compromise of security leaders
One of the commonest features of our insecurity challenge is the constant complaint of our dedicated troops that the military bosses shortchange them and divert the funding meant for their support.
Whereas some of them have been rather punished by the military high command, no such accused chief officers were ever prosecuted to serve as a deterrent. These encourage insecurity in Nigeria.
After the invasion of the Kuje custodial centre, Abuja, the supervising minister, Rauf Aregbesola admitted to the press that the intelligence agencies informed the security system ahead of time who rather refused to act on the tips. So, Nigeria’s insecurity should be checked by the government firming up the activities of its agencies. It has nothing to do with okada or solid mineral mining.
Banning solid minerals mining, a joke taken too far
the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development has in the past 10 years invested so many resources in the development of the solid minerals sector to be an alternative economic avenue to the government.
Dishearteningly, it is one of the two aspects of the economy the FG mooted banning to curb insecurity.
How? You may ask.
In the days of President Olusegun Obasanjo and into the Yar-Adua administration, the country faced serious vandalism of oil installations and militancy in the Niger Delta. That crashed Nigeria’s crude production to about 45%.
Did the FG ban oil exploration in the Niger Delta region stop the threat? Does it make sense for someone to slash off his nose to spite his face? Today, there is still some security threat to oil exploration and installations. Are we expecting the FG to announce also banning oil mining?
What is the wisdom – security, social, economic, etc in the FG contemplating banning solid minerals exploration to check insecurity? None at all, apart from sounding like surrendering to the terrorists.
Investments in the solid minerals sector by Nigerians and foreigners is in excess of N200 billion including equipment, while the sector provides employment for at least 350,000 Nigerians. These investments are mostly in the long term that take quite some time to recoup and there will be calamity on such investors and Nigeria to freeze all these.
The duty of the government is to ensure there is the right environment for all sectors of the economy to thrive – not ban.
In the early years when the late Prof. Dora Akunyili was the director general of NAFDAC, she mentioned a plan to ban pure water production, and Nigerians went up in arms against that. They rather challenged her on proper and strict regulation.
So, why would the FG ban solid minerals mining in a country the economy needs some breath of life at all costs? We don’t see any administrative, economic, or security wisdom in that. The wisest thing for the government to do is to tighten security measures around solid minerals mining for it to flourish.
Even this government has invested so much in solid minerals development, and also reaped most income from it compared to the past administration. So why ban the industry just to check insecurity when it can adequately provide security around the sector when Nigeria needs all the resources it could muster to be alive?
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) report in 2020 depicted a remarkable increase in revenues accruing to the federation from the solid minerals sector over the years.
A breakdown of the accruals shows that in 2018, the total contribution by the sector to the revenue of the government was N69.47 billion, up from 2017’s total contribution of N52.76 billion.
NEITI also noted that: “revenue from the sector to the Federation Account rose by 54 percent in 2020 to N128 billion compared to N75 billion recorded in 2019.”
Further to that: “statistics from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed that the value of total trade in solid minerals in Q4, 2021 stood at N43.37 billion representing 0.37 percent of total trade in Q4, 2021. Solid minerals exports in Q4, 2021 stood at N13.56 billion, a decrease of 25.95 percent compared to Q3, 2021 but an increase of 201.41 percent when compared to the corresponding quarter of 2020.”
What then is the rationale that when Nigeria started picking up in solid mineral extraction at a time the country’s economy runs on bleeding deficit is the time to even contemplate a ban on solid mineral extraction?
It is our hope and expectation that the FG would reconsider this intention and instead encourage these segments of the economy to flourish while it does its bit to protect the country the proper way.
At a time Nigeria is preparing for elections and need to hold the security situation in place, it would be policy somersault and counter productive to the party in power for the government to try this gamble. The government should also not forget that most of these 20.2 million Nigerians have their PVCs and can make statements of survival with them when the time comes.
Register all cattle and owners as companies. That can only be done when they are kept in ranches with the farmers also known. When they are kept in ranches, they can be tracked even to the market for sales for safety of the business and the larger society. It will make it impossible for strangers to stray into Nigeria with cattle unchecked.
Take more seriously the duty of manning our borders against intruders who freely invade the country to escalate insecurity.
Register as a rule, all motorcycles in the north as it is done in the south. When such vehicles are registered, it would be easy to track what use they put to and also track anybody committing crime with them. If Nigeria can register all phone users, there is no big deal in doing likewise about cattle and motorbikes.
The genuine and lawful okada operators in the north should be aggregated into unions with the leaders held accountable in cases of security breaches using motorcycles.
Deploy the tracking benefits and services of the GSM we use in Nigeria and locate where terrorists hide especially as they make calls to negotiate for payment.
Equip and motivate our security operatives better and fish out from among them, those that work in collusion with the criminals.
Prosecute those 400 Boko Haram sponsors you said you have and use them as scapegoats.
Let there be total ban on open cattle grazing.
Provide adequate security around mines and miners to enable them to contribute more to the economy instead of banning their lawful business. They need the support of the government to remain in business,