By Elvis Eromosele
Transportation, the movement of people and goods from one place to another, is a significant driver of human progress. In Nigeria, the three key means of transportation are road, air and water. Road transport however dominates the means of transportation, especially in urban and suburban areas. Reports indicate that road transport makes up about 90 per cent of the movement of goods and passengers in the country.
In recent years, the use of three and two-wheelers for transportation has risen dramatically, both for private and commercial purposes. Experts are quick to point out that the rising prevalence is directly connected to the growing population, increasing unemployment and the glaring inefficiencies of the available urban transport infrastructure. They are children of necessity.
Another factor, driving the uptake of three and two-wheelers may be the collapse of the public intra-city transport system, unbearable traffic in urban centres and the absence of last-mile facilities.
The reality is that there is an increase in the use of two-wheelers for commercial purposes because they enhance mobility and accessibility, especially in areas with bad road networks or where there is traffic congestion, low fuel consumption, speed, reliability and flexibility. Also, many government poverty eradication schemes are built around the provision of two-wheelers to residents. They have essentially become part of our culture.
Of course, there have been complaints against the use of two-wheelers. Some allude to the fact that they are a reason for the growing incident of road traffic accidents in urban areas. In recent times, viral videos have shown bandits and terrorist elements riding around in two-wheelers across the Savanah plains.
To combat the problems and address the complaints, the government’s response has been almost predictable – news media report that the government is proposing a blanket ban on two-wheelers.
First, it was a mere rumour but now official government sources have voiced it. This sort of knee-jerk reaction is unproductive and worrisome.
Across the world, planes have been hijacked and used for terrorist acts, but planes have not been banned. Cars have been used for robberies, yet cars have not been banned. A train was recently bombed and some of the passengers were kidnapped, but no one is talking about banning the operation of trains.
Banning two-wheelers is not the solution. They fill an important gap, meet a significant need and contribute to the national economy. A ban is not the way to go.
Yes, one truth that cannot be ignored is that two-wheelers have had a tremendous impact on the economy. The commercial use of two-wheelers has employed hundreds of thousands of unemployed people. Across the length and breadth of the country, young men without jobs, both educated and illiterate alike along with retirees have all taken to driving two-wheelers to make ends meet. I recall, a time in the mid-1990s when my father, Sunday Eromosele, now late, rode two-wheelers (popularly called okada) for almost three years following his retirement from Ibru Fisheries. He could not abandon his responsibility for family upkeep.
In addition to those directly engaged in riding the bikes, some companies bring in completely knocked down parts and assemble them in the country, transferring important technology skills in the process. Many others are into the sale of the different brands of two-wheelers and spare parts. There are some engaged in the repairs, service and maintenance, both company-owned and private individual managed. And some banks finance the bulk of these transactions.
There is a massive ecosystem involved in the provision of two-wheelers, a blanket ban would impact negatively across too many sectors.
It can be argued that in the light of how interwoven two-wheelers have become in everyday economic activity, a total ban will be counter-productive. Rather than achieve, the desired outcome, whatever it may be, it may instead lead to an increase in crime rate, loss of jobs and precipitate an economic downturn. The Nigeria Bureau of Statistics indicates that the unemployment rate in the country is currently in the region of 33 per cent. So, banning a system that employs hundreds of thousands would be nothing, if not counterproductive.
Furthermore, a closer look will reveal that the government also make revenue from the operations of two-wheelers, particularly in monies paid for plate numbers, licenses and permits.
In Lagos State alone, over 10,000 new licences are granted yearly aside from renewals. the figures accruing to the government coffers will run into billions of Naira.
We honestly cannot shy away from the fact that the operation of two-wheelers has helped to ease the transport difficulties encountered by the people across the country. They fill a gap that will be difficult to replace without massive infrastructure and transport systems overhaul.
No, a blanket ban is not the solution. We must explore creative solutions to resolve issues, not quick fixes. Everything must not be addressed with violence. No, a blanket ban is never the solution. We must explore creative solutions to resolve issues.
The government should look at the registration of every two-wheeler linked with the National Identity Number. It can also consider closer monitoring and inspection. This is a good way to equally create jobs. For inspectors.
Today, Nigeria is gradually becoming a hub for the manufacturing of two-wheelers and sales across the West African coast. There is a massive inflow of Foreign Direct Investment, boosting economic activities and contributing to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product.
Beyond the establishment of production factories and assembly lines, many are opening up service and training outlets across the country. In the five years, thousands of people have been trained in two-wheeler repairs and maintenance across the country. Curiously repair of two-wheelers is closely related to generator repair. So, we find a situation where young people who repair two-wheeler also fix generators and vice versa. It is today a thriving industry on its own.
This is job creation. This is economic productivity.
Furthermore, with growth in eCommerce, logistics and delivery services have become nearly indispensable. It is not surprising that two and three-wheelers dominate this space. They are important factors in the digital economy that the Federal government is actively promoting and implementing across the country. Digital economy and logistics are like Siamese twins with two and three-wheelers as the legs.
Transportation holds incredible potential. Two and three-wheelers are a huge part of this potential. The government must find ways to support and possibly better regulate but not ban two-wheelers.
Eromosele, a Corporate Communication professional and public affairs analyst, lives in Lagos