Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) has warned that the ongoing seizure and destruction of Okada motorcycles directed by the Lagos State government solely targets northern operators and therefore completely unacceptable.
The CNG in a statement by its spokesperson, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, said it is rash, irrational, insensitive and wicked that the Lagos State government would in just 72 hours of announcing the ban on Okada, seize and subject 7,548 motorcycles, mostly owned and operated by northerners to the crusher.
“We note that of recent, state governments in the South have resorted to imposing and enforcing controversial, unfriendly and damaging legislations that effectively curtail the right to freedom of movement of the northern people living in their midst,” the statement noted.
“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,” Suleiman said.
This, he said, is 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 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.
CNG further averred that this 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 evidence 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 said.