The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, has described the restrictions of motorcyclists also known as KEKE-NAPEP by the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Alhaji Bello Mohammed as ‘insensitive, not well thought out and irresponsible.
The group in a statement expressed shock that such a major policy that will inflict pain and penury on hundreds of thousands of Nigerians doing legitimate businesses in the nation’s capital was adopted without first and foremost implementing a workable remedial action to mitigate the untold hardship.
HURIWA which admitted that the policy may have been informed by the need to sanitize the transportation system and create an atmosphere of unimpeded flow of public transportation in the Federal Capital Territory, noted that the commercial operators of KEKE-NAPEP and the residents of the FCT most of whom make use of public transportation services provided by these commercial motorcyclists were never carried along just as the policy was rolled out without adequate remedial provisions for cushioning the adverse consequences of the hastily delivered policy.
It stated that since the past three weeks the draconian policy was enforced, there is a clear evidence that the Federal Capital Territory Chief of administration who is a cabinet-level minister in the Executive Council of the Federation, Alhaji Bello Mohammed never made foolproof plan-B to ensure that those who would be affected adversely by the policy are provided with alternatives to cushion the pains of the thoughtless policy.
The Rights group said, “the way and manner the policy was introduced and is currently being implemented leaves much to be desired because if the government plans to ameliorate traffic challenges but ends up inflicting horrendous economic harm and physical and mental torture in a grand scale on the populace, the government needs to quickly intervene and bring about an immediate remedy to mitigate this unwarranted hardships that the people are made to go through due to no fault of theirs.”
It also canvassed the actual and practical introduction of alternative transportation system that would replace the equally chaotic KEKE-NAPEP because as it is the passengers made up largely of civil servants and the urban poor who contribute majorly to the sustenance of both the formal and informal economic sectors of the Federal Capital Territory are now going through hell and torments just to make ends meet in the capital city that they all helped to build.
HURIWA added that the prevailing culture of torturing commoners in Abuja as if they created themselves poor by the ‘way-ward’ enforcement of a transportation policy that is at best elitist is against several chapters of the 1999 Constitution including the Almighty chapter four which includes such rights as Right to life, right to freedom of movement and association which are universal human rights laws that the Nigerian state is obliged by law to observe, promote and protect.
“The policy is also discriminatory because it is targeted at a group of poor urban dwellers even as the Rights group said the policy infringes on the section 42 of the Constitution which states thus: “(1) A citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not, by reason only that he is such a person:- (a) be subjected either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any executive or administrative action of the government, to disabilities or restrictions to which citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religions or political opinions are not made subject; or (b) be accorded either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any such executive or administrative action, any privilege or advantage that is not accorded to citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religions or political opinions. (2) No citizen of Nigeria shall be subjected to any disability or deprivation merely by reason of the circumstances of his birth. (3) Nothing in subsection (1) of this section shall invalidate any law by reason only that the law imposes restrictions with respect to the appointment of any person to any office under the State or as a member of the armed forces of the Federation or member of the Nigeria Police Forces or to an office in the service of a body, corporate established directly by any law in force in Nigeria.”
“HURIWA can confirm that many commuters are now forced to trek over long distances to get to their workplaces or wait for many hours to catch a taxi. Most Keke-NAPEP operators got to know of the ban when they came out to start their daily work, only to be chased around by policemen. Many had their Kekes impounded which is a state sponsored robbery that offends the relevant section of the Constitution that guarantees freedom to own property as enshrined in section 43 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of 1999 (as amended) which unambiguously provides thus: “Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, every citizen of Nigeria shall have the right to acquire and own (moveable) immovable property anywhere in Nigeria.”
“HURIWA has observed that the FCT Ministerial Task Team on Free Flow of Traffic joined forces with the Directorate of Road Traffic Services [DRTS] to enforce the ban on tricycles operating along Abuja’s major highways. HURIWA understands that the Chairman of the Task Team Comrade Ikharo Attah, who led his team to join the DRTS’ sensitization campaign, said full enforcement would not only restore sanity to the federal capital but would help in the fight against traffic gridlock. The Ministerial Task Team, drawn from various law enforcement agencies and civil society organizations, was inaugurated over two months ago by FCT Minister Muhammad Musa Bello.”
“HURIWA recalled that the FCT minister charged the task team to among other things, rid the roads of hawkers and allow free flow of traffic just as the committee’s Chairman Attah said the order was not designed to unleash hardship on tricycle operators and residents but was in line with the FCT’s transportation master plan, which stipulates that all means of transportation must be regulated and controlled and stated further that the ministerial order was meant to enhance the safety of the operators as well as that of the passengers because Keke-NAPEPs will no longer be allowed to move on highways.”