Nigeria wants to ban motorcycle sales to curb terrorist attacks. Why it won’t work
insecurity in Nigeria deteriorated. In the north-eastern region, despite the gains made by the military, the activities of jihadist terrorist groups such as Boko Haram and the West African province of the Islamic State have continued unabated.
Gunmen continue to do so in the northwest and north-central regions unleash chaos on local communities. The number of kidnappings and ransom demands has increased risenas well as killings and sexual violence.
Virtually no part of the country was spared. There is Militancy and Piracy in the Niger DeltaViolence by the immortalized Eastern Security Network in the Southeast region and sectarianism, armed robbery and kidnapping in the southwest.
But the situation in the north is even worse owing to the number of killings, forced evictions and a looming humanitarian crisis.
A lack of policy coordination across the country has resulted in the government’s failure to bring any of these situations under control.
Some of the affected northern states have taken action, such as issuing ultimatums or offering negotiations or amnesty. None worked.
Beyond the use of force, the federal government has also taken measures aimed at denying criminal groups freedom of action. For example, to mitigate the threat of armed banditry, telecommunications services have been used temporarily switched off in some northern states.
These measures have not brought the desired results either.
As part of renewed efforts to address prevailing uncertainty, the federal government is considering the idea Ban motorcycles across the country.
Based on my previous research on factors relied on by jihadists and other non-state actors to expand their campaign of violence in Nigeria and across the Sahel, I argue that these policies are also likely to fail.
Instead of banning the use of motorcycles, I believe the Nigerian government urgently needs to step up their offensive military campaigns.
It should also address the socio-economic causes of insecurity and related problems of poor governance.
Why a ban doesn’t work
A nationwide motorcycle ban will not solve the problem for five reasons.
First, commercial motorcycles make a significant contribution to the informal sector. The policy would be counterproductive. Commercial motorcycles help address issues such as poverty, inequality and unemployment. All of these are underlying socioeconomic conditions that drive insecurity in the first place.
Taking that away would only make people more vulnerable and willing to join criminal groups to survive.
Second, a nationwide ban on motorcycles could potentially increase the number of highway attacks by criminal groups intent on hijacking vehicles. This would put the lives of commuters who rely on commercial vehicles at greater risk.
Third, motorcycles have served as a mechanism to facilitate early warning in conflict-prone areas. Many of the communities attacked are remote. People tend to rely on the use of motorcycles to provide timely notification of an impending attack.
Even the Nigerian Army itself has a dedicated one combat motorcycle battalion because of access difficulties.
Fourth, in most rural communities where attacks took place, motorcycles were used to take victims to hospitals. Hospitals are often miles from these communities. The lack of motorcycles would endanger the lives of the victims as they would be denied quick access to medical care.
Finally, a nationwide ban on motorcycles would be difficult to enforce given the porous nature of Nigeria’s land borders. It is difficult to effectively control some of the country’s borders. Criminal groups could exploit these loopholes by importing motorcycles illegally.
States’ political responses to the threat of armed banditry and other acts of terrorism should be coordinated. For example, instead of some states negotiating with gunmen and others refusing, a unified response across the troubled region should be adopted.
This would increase the prospects for meaningful progress.
In addition to the lack of a need for a coordinated policy response from affected states in the region, less obvious factors such as the link between climate change and violent conflict also need to be properly considered and addressed appropriately.
In order to ensure the territorial integrity of the Nigerian state and ensure the safety of citizens’ lives, Nigerian politicians must be willing to demonstrate decisive political will that goes beyond mere rhetoric in the general interest of peace and security.