Let Achaba Be

Okada Riders

Okada Riders

Achaba, as it is called in the North, or Okada as in the South, is simply motorcycle taxi business which gives employment to millions of youths across the country. Basically, it was a product of a declined economy which left, largely, the youth pitifully stranded in the unemployment market. In particular, the urban transportation system caved in when government put in place certain economic measures in the late 80s.

That almost wiped out the entire sector – rail, water, road and air. It started with the National Haulage Company and, like a bush fire, it swept off the railways, the Nigerian Airways and road transportation.

This wasn’t all. Urban based enterprises equally gave up. Kingsway stores, Challerams, Leventis Super Stores, textile manufacturing firms and many of their type are no more. This cut deep into the employment market creating more generation of the unemployment.

Worse affected by this devastating economic misfortune were the youth. Badly squeezed by this development, an inward looking elite corps emerged to harshly lighten the squeeze. It was tough for the unemployed, but particularly the jobless youth, who saw themselves facing a gloomy future especially with no prospect of marriage.

Two developments emerged on the socio-economic scene as a consequence. The first was armed robbery, which has now metamorphosed into kidnapping, oil theft, pipe line vandalism, rampant fetish sacrifices and other forms of criminality including Internet fraud, bombings, ethno-religious violence, the ‘area boys’ menace, etc. Today, society is painfully living with this. The second was the evolution of motorcycles as taxis following the almost total collapse of urban transportation. Thus, Achaba or Okada came on the scene to fill the void created by a vicious economic environment put in place by an equally harsh official policy imposed on the country by the IMF in the mid 80s.

Achaba, therefore, saved the system from being over-saturated with unemployed employable youths at a recent point in our history. Its legitimacy was such that when politicians took over, they happily patronized it by buying and distributing same to operators. The security challenges in the country have changed all that. The political class is now squeezing them tight in the belief that bombs are being conveyed through them by criminals, killing security personnel at check points by the use of their services.

True, there have been isolated cases in this regard. However, a distinction needs to be made between an Achaba operator and the criminal he may be conveying, probably unknown to him (the rider) who his passenger is.

Besides, there is no evident statistics to dispassionately support the assumption that they are the major brains behind these dastard incidents.

This apart, gulf cars have been used more by bomb throwers than Achaba riders. Yet no one has ever muted that the use of such cars be banned.

There is, therefore, no justice to Achaba operators in this regard. Indeed, they deserve commendation for coming to the rescue of the nation when its urban transportation went under.

It is interesting that while many agree that our current security challenges are the by-products of unemployment, by banning Achaba operators, therefore, we are adding more fuel to the burning fire. Indeed, injecting further unemployment into the system may cost a bitter price.

For now, government needs to properly register all Achaba owners to operate not beyond 9 p.m. Banning them outright, without consideration of their useful services to the people, may worsen the situation the ban is supposed to prevent. Let them be but within some guidelines.