By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
With daunting challenges posed by ravaging insecurity across the country, ActionAid Nigeria, AAN, Monday, called on the Federal Government to reconsider proposed ban on illegal miners and commercial motorcycle operators popularly known as okada.
The Country Director, AAN, Ene Obi, said the ban will undoubtedly further deepen the national multi-dimensional poverty index if measures are not taken to address the population involved.
Obi pointed that the planned ban appears to be a solution to cut off supply of weapons, funds and food to terrorists, which would cripple terrorists’ networking and attacks, but it is also imperative for the sake of national interest and security, government must provide “well thought-out alternatives to lessen the effects of the attendant loss of livelihoods on the people that will be affected.”
She said: “Regardless of the means being considered for the proposed ban on Okada riders, artisanal and small-scale miners, it must be implemented in a way that will not further worsen the country’s dire economic situation.
“A World Bank report has already noted that the number of poor persons in Nigeria will rise to 95.1 million in 2022. The number of poor people was 89.0 million in 2020. This means that over 6.1 million more persons would have fallen into the poverty bracket between 2020 and 2022, a 6.7 per cent increase.
“With the projected 2022 figures, the number of poor persons in Nigeria has had a four-year increase of 14.7 per cent from the 2018/19 figure of 82.1 million to the projected 95.1 million in 2022.
“In Nigeria, the poverty rate has been aided by the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, the growing population, the high level of inflation, which stood at 18.6 per cent as of June 2022 and the harsh effects of the Ukraine-Russia warfare.
“This development is coming after the Nigerian government said it lifted 10.5 million Nigerians out of poverty between 2019 and 2021.
“Though the President has repeatedly said that the Bank of Industry has created 9 million jobs in the country since 2015, and different schemes to create jobs and tackle poverty in the country have been launched. These have failed to stem the tide of poverty in the country.”
Meanwhile, in quoting the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, she (Obi) said, “According to the Attorney General, “If you are talking of banning motorcycles, for example, I think the number of people using these motorcycles is not up to 20 per cent of the Nigerian population,” but for AAN, this represents a significant segment of the population whose condition will be worsened because Nigeria continues to battle issues such as food inflation, rising unemployment, the rising cost of living among other economic challenges, and these issues are responsible for why more people are falling into the poverty net.
“Simply put, it means that one out of every five Nigerians will be directly affected by this ban, and this will further increase if you consider their family members, relatives and friends that may depend on them.”
However, she recommended that, “Nigeria must put a robust social safety net in place to buffer the impact of the planned ban.
“In addition, the country must invest in agriculture value-chain, especially girl child education, prioritise the health and well-being of its citizenry and enhance economic opportunities while embracing technology to improve economic productivity and opportunities for the citizens.
“In essence, the government must encourage investments and job creation to engage those that will lose their livelihoods.
“AAN and other development partners are available to work with the government at all levels to create a sustainable alternative for this population.”
She also warned that, “Nigeria may find it hard to contain crime and criminality and tackle poverty if adequate alternatives are not implemented before the planned ban.”
In conclusion, she advised that, “While it is vital for us to do everything possible to deal with threats to national security or the country’s corporate existence, we urge the FG to give the options being considered human face as the well-being of Nigerians should be prioritised.
“This will help to reduce livelihood and monetary poverty that will stem from the planned ban on Okada riders and miners.”