•Operators warn that move will worsen hardship among Nigerians
By Tessy Igomu and Fred Ezeh, Abuja
They are commercial motorcyclists popularly called okada. They are everywhere and anywhere. They have become an integral part of Nigeria’s cities’ landscape. To many, they are a necessary evil. They are loathed although they come handy. Indeed, many who have had unpleasant experiences with them would want them chased out of the way.
Many believe that okada operators’ flagrant disobedience to traffic laws is legendary. They insist that that their operations regularly pitch them against the law.
According to recent reports, the number of people who have died at the hands of reckless okada riders is overwhelming.
The Federal Road Safety Corps says that nationwide statistics of accidents involving okada riders was alarming. The agency is therefore calling for a nationwide ban on commercial motorcycle to reduce road accidents.
FRSC said its recommendation formed part of the October Road Traffic Crash Report 2016, submitted by the Corps Marshal, Mr. Boboye Oyeyemi, to the Federal government.
The report quoted Oyeyemi as saying that commercial motorcyclists remained a major cause of fatal road traffic accidents across the country, hence the need for state governments to consider banning them from operating.
According to him, the RTC statistics for October 2016 showed that 230 cases or 18 per cent of a total of 1,259 vehicles involved in accidents within the month were commercial motorcycles.
He stressed that according to the reports, motorcycle accidents ranked third after cars which accounted for 457 cases or 36 per cent, followed by minibuses with 243 or 19 per cent of the total.
Oyeyemi said: “Following the outcome of the analysis, it could be concluded that motorcycles still constitute serious menace on the nation’s highways.
“Accordingly, improved results could be achieved in the future, if more state governments could consider placing a ban on the use of motorcycles for commercial purposes.
“In view of the above, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation should facilitate and encourage state governments to ban the use of motorcycle for commercial purposes.”
He further noted that beside their contributions to road accidents, they have also been linked to the operations of armed robbers, kidnappers and other criminals in several parts of the country.
However, the planned ban is not going down well the commercial motorcycle operators under the aegis of Amalgamated Commercial Motorcycle Owners and Riders Association of Nigeria (ACCOMORAN).
Unhappy and unsettled by the plan, the organisation has not only kicked against it but has described the proposal as a deliberate plan to frustrate and deprive its members of their means of livelihood.
Members of the organisation lamented that despite the suffering and frustrations brought about by unfriendly government policies, it was unfortunate that moves were still being made to further frustrate them into penury. The planned action had therefore generated palpable fear and anxiety among members of the association.
According to the National President of ACCOMORAN, Alhaji Muhammad Hassan, if government went ahead with its plan, over 30 million youths fully engaged in the business of okada riding, would be left in the lurch. He also lamented that many families feeding and being taken care of through the business would become hapless.
His words: “Imagine what would be the fate of these millions of youths if government should go ahead and ban okada nationwide. The implications would not be favourable to all because there would be increase in crime rate and some other social vices.
“Remember that there are mechanics, spare parts dealers, vulcanizers, road-side oil sellers and several others who rely on this business to augment their source of livelihood. They would be seriously affected by this decision. This is really going to be tough for many families.”
Alhaji Hassan appealed to the Federal government and other civil society groups to withdraw their support for the proposed nationwide ban on okada, adding that aside running contrary to labour law, the financial and security implications it would have on the people would be far reaching.
He noted that they were neither notified nor consulted as stakeholders before the decision was reached, stressing that such acts has no place in a democratic dispensation.
“It’s so disheartening to note that FRSC neither consulted nor sought our opinion or suggestions in the programmes it had concerning our members. As a matter of fact, they have consistently imposed on us whatever decisions they reach, even when it concerns our association or members. We were never part of this recent resolve and we have complained to them several times but nothing has been done to correct the injustice,” he said.
He appealed to FRSC authorities to have a rethink on the proposed nationwide ban, as it would create opportunity for people to choose the only option open to them which was crime,” he said.
Speaking on another matter, which he noted had dogged the association for a while, Alhaji Hassan, maintained that the association had distanced itself from the proposed plan by some groups to change the concept and identity of the association, to accommodate commercial tricycle operators, repairers and some others. He further warned those whom he described as stoking the embers of discord to perish the thought.
“There is a pending court case against the purported group; the court has already given an interlocutory order against them, their agents or any other person acting on their behalf from carrying any action or function in the name of the association. I’m urging every member of the group to desist from creating unnecessary clamour,” he said.
Reacting to the proposed ban, okada operators described the idea as unfair, especially more so when it was coming from a government they voted for.
A representative of Motorcycle Operators Association of Lagos State MOALS, Tijani Pekis, said outright ban of the riders would further impoverish them and increase crime rate in the country.
He said: “Government should have a rethink on the planned outright ban; this will help dissuade them (government) from investing in ammunition with which to fight the criminal tendencies that might arise as a result of the ban.
“Many of our members were formerly employees of companies that folded; some were retrenched from their places of employment due to one reason or the other. “So we’re only using okada business to make ends meet. If Lagos State bans okada, does it have the capacity to employ the army of individuals that would be rendered jobless? Or is it interested in worsening the already alarming unemployment rate in Lagos and other parts of the country?
“Okada has been the only means of livelihood for many since unemployment went on the ascendency. The primary duty of the government is to provide for its citizens but in our own case is government doing this?”
Tin Can Customs, agents seek roadmap for change
By Olabisi Olaleye
The Tincan Island Port Command of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has its sight set at achieving excellence in the days ahead. With this in mind, it recently organised a three-day workshop at the Information and Communication Technology(ICT) centre with a view to minimising congestion at the port and teaching agents /brokers, what to do to realise this goal.
The training which came in batches featured the first set of 33 brokers, who were expected to be the new change agents who would accelerate excellence at the command.
According to the Tincan Island Port Command Comptroller, CAC, Bashar Yusuf, it became imperative to have a special training for the agents to enable smooth operations and better service delivery.
“It has been in our plan to provide a modest training platform here at the Tincan Port so as to boost the capacity of our staff and other stakeholders. Doing so at this period would further enable transparent operation and uplift integrity in data management.
“Basically, the impact of the training would eradicate mistakes, erode illegalities and unverified claims by both importers and agents. Most importantly, good practice would prevail if everything is taken into cognisance.”
The skill taught on the occasion included interpersonal relationships, change management, import guideline, classifications, valuation/rules of origin, trade facilitation and Nigeria trade hub.
Bashar, however, advised the agents to encourage their clients not to have vehicles in cargo anymore but import such in pallets, while stressing that regulatory agencies should always be on ground to authenticate claims.
During one of the sessions on classifications, Assistant Comptroller Adeola Kikelomo disclosed that it was necessary for customs agents to uphold integrity and remain accountable as this would improve national security, boost revenue, improve government support and social security.
“At times, it is lack of integrity on the part of both importers and agents who don’t release the necessary permits like Soncap, NAFDAC documents among others to facilitate the release of their goods. Until all the necessary papers are submitted, goods cannot be released.
“During classification, some agents do not know the difference between a section note and a chapter note; these are legal notes essential for classification because without them they won’t be able to classify properly. For instance if goods in Chapter 10 read cereal, it should not be classified as grain. But if it has been worked on: peeled, roasted or even baked, it should not be in Chapter 10, according to the law.
Chapter notes are so important for agents to know. If goods are wrongly classified, that would add to the timing of their release because the owner will need to go back and pay the extra duty on them that were not paid for.”
She added that if customs agents knew the rules and were compliant to them, that would help in achieving better classification.
On the other hand, Assistant Comptroller Dudu Gyang Dalyop, while harping on the need for valuation process, cautioned agents not to capture with photocopy of bill of lading to help in making clearing process faster.
He disclosed that valuation standard was guided by the World Trade Organisation concept and as such importers and agents should be ready to change by declaring the exact goods they brought into the country to aid proper valuation.
“There is need for proper information; that is the essence of this training. Importers are short-changing people because of hunger but the agents make the job competitive through the regulatory agencies; that is when there would be standard. The industry must outlive us,” he said, adding that if importers were truthful in their declaration, that would make calculation of duty easier.
Pomp as Lagos school holds cul tural day celebrations
By Tessy Igomu
A deep sense of cultural identity will always pop up in the hearts of pupils of Fit-Charis International School, Lagos after they marked the inaugural edition of their school’s cultural day recently. The exceptional event, which took place at the school’s premises, along the LASU-Iba Expressway, had the children showcasing Nigeria’s rich cultural heritage.
The participants: the children, parents, teachers and visitors, defiled the scorching sun as they gathered to experience and enjoy exciting displays of culture. Decked in their trendy and colourful traditional attires, beads and beautiful ear-rings, the pupils expressed themselves in dance, songs and other activities reminiscent of Nigerian traditional values, thus impressing on everyone that they were in tune with their culture.
The teachers and non-teaching staff also turned out dressed in their best traditional attires to make the event memorable. Parents were also not left out in the fiesta as they prepared and came along with their traditional meals for the children to be conversant with various foods relished by various tribes in the country. Aside cultural displays, there were also fashion parade, taekwondo displays, parents’ and ballet dance and beauty contest.
Expressing delight at the cultural presentation by various classes and groups, the Director of the School, Mrs. Aderonke Aderanti Ajayi, explained that the event, was prompted by the need to have cultural education embedded in the school’s curriculum.
She described culture as a way of life, a set of attitudes, values and beliefs passed from generation to generation, adding that culture, remains an integral part of life and epitomises the total way of life of a particular people living in a particular place. She noted that Nigeria is multi-ethnic, with each tribe blessed with its own unique characteristics.
She recalled that culture was a unifying factor in the country, without which there won’t be social development. She lamented that majority of the problems in the country stemmed from warped understanding of the differences among various people in the country.
“If we teach our children the diversity of our cultures, we’ll solve our problems. We should encourage our children to understand their roots. It is necessary that we get our children acquainted with our cultural orientation. In-depth knowledge of one’s tribe or culture is practicalised; this aids the teaching of social studies.
“People need to come together and agree to work together for the progress of the country. There is need for unity; it enables us to be united as one in the lord. As individuals, we should continue to protect our heritage so that generations to come will benefit from it. It is best to combine culture with education because it blends perfectly to bring out the best in a child. As we celebrate this beautiful event with our children, our cultural day today, let us appreciate what our fore-fathers have preserved for us.
“Nigeria as a country with diverse culture had faced a lot of problems even to the present; that was basically intolerance. We believe that cultural day is a good platform to expose the young generation to the diverse cultures present in the country and this will help to build up their tolerance to accept and respect people irrespective of their culture. It is an eye-opener for our children to learn more about different cultures apart from their own. This knowledge can also help them in spreading the word of God.”
Mrs. Ajayi enjoined parents to try and introduce local languages to their children, noting that it had been proved that children below six could effortlessly pick up more than four different languages at the same time without their grammatical expression being affected.
The Head Teacher of the school, Mrs. Hilda Kalu, while still harping on the significance of the cultural day celebration, noted that identifying with the roots and appreciating the diversity among people of the country was a very critical factor for unity.
She noted that among other things, the event was meant to revitalise the rich cultural heritage of Nigeria and inculcate same in the pupils. She disclosed that the school had decided to make the event an annual one and assured that it would become better with years.