City-wide Motorbike Ban in Maiduguri, Nigeria Aims to Halt Boko Haram Violence

In the northeastern Nigerian city of Maiduguri, Borno State, city officials have completely banned the use of motorbikes in an attempt to reduce violent attacks carried out by gunmen using these vehicles. These violent attacks have been attributed to the local Islamic sect known as Boko Haram, which lead an armed uprising in 2009, and has been responsible for smaller acts of violence (bombings, shootings) since then, including targeting police and military personnel, community and religious leaders, politicians, public buildings, churches, beer gardens and a prison.

Violence has intensified recently and the sect members have been known to use motorbikess to facilitate their attacks — by speeding in, firing on their targets and speeding out, or by speeding in, throwing or dropping bombs, and speeding out.

A previous city government attempt to place a 12-hour ban on motorbikes was unsuccessful. 

Boko Haram, which means (figuratively) “Western or non-Islamic education is a sin,” is a controversial  militant Islamic group in northern Nigeria that seeks to promote and position shariah law in northern Nigerian states. The group has become well-known internationally for violence.

Motorbike Usage in Nigeria

Okada in Kano, Nigeria (Source: Wikipedia)

In Maiduguri as in numerous Nigerian urban areas, motorbikes have become increasingly ubiquitous as the best, easiest and fastest means of transport in congested urban streets. They are typically used as commercial motortaxis (okada), or as privately used vehicles and are advantageous for their ability to slip through traffic, even during the highest levels of congestion. That said, while these vehicles have arisen as a dominent means of transport in Nigerian cities, these vehicles have also been attributed with the increasing incidence of road fatalities and accidents, due to driver recklessness and disregard for traffic rules.

The question now will be how will the ban impact urban transport flows within the city, particularly for lower and medium-income residents who rely on the okada for daily transport needs. Additionally, for okada drivers who rely on taxing for their daily income, how will they shift their labor activity and to which new activities in order to earn a living?

Promoting Alternative Transport Options

Keke Napep (Source: Nairaland)

As motorbikes disappeared from Maiduguri’s streets yesterday, the government was already planning means of alternative transport to address citizens complaints and concerns. It seems the city is ready to address these issues in part.  Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State has put in motion plans to deploy 7,000 keke napep (motored tricycle vehicles) as alternative means of transport (1,680 currently available). In the coming week, the government also aims to purchase 100 buses for intracity transport.

Just Scratching the Surface
Unfortunately, while the introduction of more keke napep and buses can address more immediate urban transport demands, the ban on motorbikes is unlikely to address the deeper issue — the spread and deepening of Boko Haram’s impact and influence in northern Nigeria. But as indicated by recent news reports, including a BBC article last month (“Who Are Nigeria’s Boko Haram Islamists?“) the end goal of the Boko Haram members is much deeper — to “overthrow the government and create an Islamic state”:

Boko Haram promotes a version of Islam which makes it “haram”, or forbidden, for Muslims to take part in any political or social activity associated with Western society. This includes voting in elections, wearing shirts and trousers or receiving a secular education.

Boko Haram regards the Nigerian state as being run by non-believers, even when the country had a Muslim president. Since the Sokoto caliphate, which ruled parts of what is now northern Nigeria, Niger and southern Cameroon, fell under British control in 1903, there has been resistance among the area’s Muslims to Western education.

Many Muslim families still refuse to send their children to government-run “Western schools,” a problem compounded by the ruling elite which does not see education as a priority.

The threat [of Boko Haram] it poses is unlikely to disappear: Poverty-stricken northern Nigeria has a history of spawning groups similar to Boko Haram.

Analysts believe the threat will disappear only if the Nigerian government manages to reduce the region’s chronic poverty, and builds an education system which gains the support of local Muslims.
  –BBC News, “Who Are Nigeria’s Boko Haram Islamists?