Thursday, June 14, 2012

Achaba ban: Jalingo residents face hard times

Achaba ban: Jalingo residents face hard times The ban of commercial motorcycles in Jalingo, the capital of Taraba state, is biting hard on the socio-economic activities of the residents. Ayodele Samuel reports. Now I can’t feed my family, my children are out of school, my 15- year old boy cannot write his final exams because one man has put me out of work; Governor Danbaba Suntai has banned Achaba”. These were words of lamentation from John Danlanmi, 48, a Jalingo based commercial motorcyclist and father of four. “72 percent of the people in the state capital depend on Achaba (commercial motorcycles) for their commute, with 18 percent of the riders being owners of their vehicles. Only about 10 percent of resident in the state capital own private cars,” records according to the Federal Road Safety Commission FRSC in Taraba State reveals. With motorcycles serving as the most common means of transportation in Jalingo, as is the case in many places in the country, the ban on the operations of both private and commercial motorcycles in the state capital placed by the state Governor Danbaba Suntai following several security threats, has dented the economic viability of many people who in one way or another are dependent on commercial motorcycles. Mr. Joshua said life had been very difficult for him since the ban of Achaba, “I am living a miserable life now. Since the government cannot provide another job for us, why should they take the one we have? The Governor fly with helicopter everywhere in the state, so he does not feel the pains of the people, he does not know the untold hardship he has brought to my life”. Following the ban, Police were drafted to all corners of the state capital where they arrested thousands of motorcyclists, including non commercial ones; those who were out for their legitimate duties. “I.D. card or no I.D. card, the governor said we should arrest anybody who is riding on a bike whether commercial or private”, a police man at MTD checkpoint told a principal staff of Federal Medical Centre who was on duty with his motorbike. The ban has also led to thousands of people trekking on the streets of Jalingo while others wait endlessly on the roadside for the scarce commercial buses to get to their destinations. Residents bemoan the government’s failure to provide visible palliative measures to ease transportation hardship. While many a family bread winner eked out a living from commercial motorcycling, even many more survived on repairing of the motorcycles and selling of spare parts, occupations that had become the refuge of many youths in the city. Most of the roadside mechanics, who survived through the repair of motorcycles, have deserted their work sites. Ditto, the motorcycles spare parts dealers. School children have been trekking long distances to attend classes and return home. The situation is not different with the civil servants, who do not own personal vehicles.0 Alhaji Suleiman Isa, a motorcycle dealer, expressed bitterness over the ban of motorcycles, which has led to the stoppage of his business, saying that he no longer opens his shop because nobody would even look at it. “I am pleading with the government to please find another way of providing security in the state, apart from banning of motorcycle”. Re-echoing Isa’s plea, Chairman of the Taraba state chapter of Motorcycle Mechanics union, better known as the Nigeria Automobile Technicians and Allied Trade Association, NATATA, Mallam Danjuma Mainaira, bemoaned the ban on the use of motorcycle, describing it as a “thoughtless harsh punishment on the people by the government. He said, since the ban took effect, it was his wife that was feeding the family from what she was earning from the petty trading she was doing at home. “My main concern now is the boys working under me; because it is from the little they get here that they use to take care of their schooling and their needs.” Also, the Concerned Taraba Youths Forum condemned the indefinite ban on the use of motorcycles (Achaba) and the unlawful detention of youths in the state capital by the state Government. The forum described the action of the state Government under Governor Danbaba Suntai as illegal and a violation of the fundamental human right of the people. In a press Statement signed by its Coordinators Danjuma Gambo and Talima Grace, the Concerned Taraba Youths Forum alleged that more than 50 innocent and helpless youths are presently languishing in the prison under the order of the state governor. It declared that “the molestation and continued detention of these helpless youths by security agencies amounts to gross violation of our fundamental human rights as guaranteed by the 1999 constitution. “The government has since resolve to unlawfully imprisoning our youths without trial and access to any legal assistance. “We are concern of the security situation in the state and efforts of the government to protect its citizenry which has led to the ban on the use of motorcycles in the state capital for past’s weeks, however this highhandedness of the state government has result to the gross loses of earnings to many families who lived on the business. “We are totally against the ban which has brought untold hardship on the residents and economy of the state since the Motorcycle is the only visible means of transportations in the absence of good roads networks in the state capital”. The group also rejected the surreptitious plan by the government to unlawfully limit the use of motorcycle in the state capital to indigenes of the state. “As a developing state, our land is open to all Nigerians in respective of their tribes, religion and background, the laws of Nigeria provide its citizens the right to reside and work in any part of the country, including Taraba state,” the forum chided the government. The youths also demands “the state government to immediately reverse the unlawful ban on motorcycles since it has failed to provide alternative means of transportation. “If the government fails to yield to our demands within the period of 14 days, we will mobilize youths to peacefully take over the streets and explore every lawful means available to drive home our demands”. However, Peoples Daily gathered that there is more to the Governor’s decision to ban the operation of commercial motorcycles than meets the eye. It was learnt the measure was a preemptive move to frustrate his “number one political enemy”, Senator Asia Al Hassan, who was planning to celebrate her one year anniversary as a Federal legislator with the distribution of motorcycles to her loyalists in Jalingo. A source said the Governor deliberately “ordered the ban to frustrate her plans of donating Achaba to her supporters on May 29th” However, the Special Adviser to Governor Danbaba Suntai on Security Matters, Group Captain Sule Gani (rtd), said the ban on the use of motorcycles in Jalingo was effected because the two bomb attacks carried out in the state were by motorcycle riders, who were also believed to be linked to the killing and dumping of dead bodies in the state capital. “We want our people to be secured; you know the atrocities these motorcycle riders have been committing in Jalingo; the two bombings we have witnessed were by motorcycle people. So, I discovered that if we take Okada off our streets, our people will be safe”, Group Captain Gani said. He added that the government was fully aware that many people might undergo some hardship with the new policy, but assured that government would soon alleviate their hardship. According to him, “government will come in, but it may not be immediately; definitely whatever policy you bring, people will have to undergo some certain difficulties, but definitely the government will do something; we are going to meet and I believe that the governor is going to provide an alternative”.