Sometime in 1985, I read a short story by the novelist and critic Obii Nwachukwu – Agbada titled Grandfather’s Motorcycle. After much longing, an old man finally bought and was savouring the thrill of owning a bike. Before a company of friends and passers-by, he showed off the beauty of the product. He wheeled the motorcycle around in circles and alighted brimming with satisfaction at the soft drum tones tapped out by its engine. A man touched a gadget here and another felt a component there.
A man in the small crowd smiled at Grandfather. “Let me try it.’ Obliged, the admirer mounted the motorcycle and rode off. He never came back! And riding on Nwachukwu – Agbada’s truth of fiction, we are brought back to the present, where thirty-three years after, the motorcycle is still a major factor in the economy of crime engagement.
In the past four years, the security situation in Anambra State has been very good; witnessing a marked reduction in crime rate and better performance on the part of security agencies in crime fighting. The improved capability of the State’s security machinery has been attributed to the empowerment received from the Anambra State Governor, Willie Obiano. Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris is quoted in The Nation of Monday, June 5, 2017 as saying: ‘The support by Governor Willie Obiano is unprecedented; it will enhance our operational capacity and aid our resolve to fight crime and criminality in all nooks and crannies of the State.’
This testimony is corroborated by the statement of another important voice. In an advertorial in Saturday Sun of August 8, 2015, Vice Chancellor, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Professor Joseph Ahaneku said: ‘The Nnamdi Azikiwe University deeply appreciates the efforts of His Excellency, Chief Dr. Willie Obiano in ridding the State of crime for which the University has benefitted immensely.’
However, the task of containing crime is never completely removed. The socio – economic and personality factors that influence deviant social behaviour can only be mediated, not eradicated. Thus, in the face of new challenges, crime fighting efforts are to be continually reviewed for increased results.
The Anambra State Government had for long been faced with the dilemma of strict security imperatives and the social sentiments of governance. Security reports have consistently identified the easy get-away facility the motorcycle offers to criminals as a hurdle in crime fighting. The motorized bike not only meanders through narrow and difficult terrain that a four wheel vehicle would not manage, the detection of any specific description in the flow of traffic is a particularly tasking job.
It could easily be stripped of some parts and refitted in a new configuration that leads astray investigating eyes. Given its comparative cheap cost, a serious minded gang can afford to ditch the instruments after an operation. As we saw in Nwachukwu-Agbada’s familiar setting, all it takes for a fleeing criminal to melt into the society is a serviceable machine, sheer guts and some luck.
It is remarkable that in the face of these disturbing facts, the Anambra State Government had refrained from regulation of motorcycle transportation in the state even when every other state in the South-east had introduced one sort of prohibition or the other.
Much thought was given to the attendant economic implication for the citizens engaged in commercial motorcycle use. In consideration of the hardship expected to follow a ban on its use, the humane Willie Obiano administration chose to manage the continued operation of the system for some time more. This accommodation, this toleration certainly could not go on indefinitely. The price for the total retention of motorcycle transportation was too high to pay – at the risk of the security and well-being of the citizens as well as the state’s economic growth.
Consequently, the Anambra State Government in the second week of May 2018 reviewed the existing policy and issued notice of restriction on motorcycle operations in the state to come into effect in July 2018. The limitation on motorcycle riding will affect only Awka and Onitsha and their satellite communities – at least for now.
Clearly, there is no ban. Operators in the capital and commercial cities are free to relocate to other towns and continue their venture. The restriction promises to facilitate greater crime prevention, detection and control in the affected cities. And with these beachheads serving as a bulwark, managing the security challenges in other parts of the state where motorcycles are allowed to run, should be easier.
Aside security, there are also other serious problems associated with unregulated use of motorcycle in our societies. There is the road safety issue arising from their ubiquitous presence. The spectre of knocked down pedestrians is ever present. The motorcycle riders themselves have no protective shield in the event of collision with another bike or car.
Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola had cited the rising trend of orthopedic patients as reason for banning commercial motorcycles when he was Governor of Lagos State. The restriction plan further promises to free Awka and Onitsha from the congestion and pollution motorcycles have unleashed on the towns.
Afuba writes from Awka