The Coalition of Northern Groups has warned against the ongoing seizure and destruction of Okada motorcycles directed by the Lagos State Government, saying the action targets northern operators and therefore was “completely unacceptable”.
The CNG in a statement by its Spokesperson, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, noted that it was “rash, irrational, insensitive and wicked” that the Lagos State Government would in just 72 hours of announcing the ban, seize and subject 7,548 bikes, mostly owned and operated by northerners to the crusher.
Suleiman said, “We note that of recent, State governments in the South have resorted to imposing and enforcing controversial, unfriendly and damaging legislation that effectively curtail the right to freedom of movement of the northern people living in their midst.
“More disturbing is that like in the current case of Lagos, the enforcers of these discriminatory laws almost all the time fail to draw the decent distinction between the northerner as citizen, or commercial motorcycling as an occupation, from criminality.
“To the makers of these laws and their formal and informal enforcers, it matters little that just because some Okada riders commit certain breaches does not make all motorcyclists criminals.
“In fact, they are enforcing the laws without taking into consideration that the vast majority of northerners in Lagos – including those who are Okada operators – are peaceful everyday people with the same needs, anxieties and hopes as the rest of Nigerians.”
This, he said, was not only a catalyst for further conflict but also a clear contradiction of sections of the Nigerian Constitution that declare null and void any law in any part of the country that conflicts with any of its provisions, especially on the right of every citizen to live and flourish in any part of the country, without discrimination or harassment.
“This brutal encroachment by the Lagos State government on the right of northerners to freedom of movement, freedom of association and other fundamental human right safeguards, is eroding the consciousness that for decades, different tribes in Nigeria have been accommodated and tolerated in the North, without their hosts enacting discriminatory laws specifically to intimidate, harass and endanger them, their families, their properties or their trades.
“Notwithstanding the hard evidences of the notoriety of these settlers in the perpetration, commission, spread and promotion of various crimes and antisocial behaviours within their host communities, the North has never attempted to discriminate or label them beyond seeking solutions through legitimate and civil interventions.
“No matter through which lenses we look, therefore, we only see in this fast-phased agenda a manifestation of an ignoble system that tends to deploy a warped application of the law solely to endanger northerners living and doing legitimate businesses in Lagos which is unacceptable, ” Suleiman added.
The CNG, he said, was also worried and extremely agitated by reports of organized and coordinated attacks in Ogwatoghose and Ikare areas of Ondo State, especially targeting northerners and destroying their aluminum and iron material market and the wanton looting of their assets.
The Group resolved to call on the Lagos and other state governments with similar discriminatory legislation to review and redress the apparent bias so that they too can claim the right to protection of their people living in various parts of the North.
“Rather than callously destroying the motorbikes which are valuable assets to the northern operators, it would have been more decent and more closely acceptable if the Lagos government had just ordered a regulated evacuation of the unwanted northerners and their assets back home,” he said.
The CNG also called for the urgent intervention of the Federal Government to ensure the protection of the rights of the northerner wherever he chooses to live in the country.
“We also demand immediate action from the federal authorities in thoroughly investigating the ugly attacks on northerners in Ondo and the arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators and their supporters.
“We demand from the Ondo State government, an immediate review of the situation and payment of compensation for damages and losses that resulted from the attack on innocent northern traders, ” Suleiman said.
They blamed the situation on the levity and cowardice of the northern governors and elite in speaking out for the right of the northerner to be protected when he lives as minority elsewhere.