Nigeria Wants to Ban Motorcycles – to Fight Terrorism

The bikes, known as okadas, are noisy, polluting, and often used as a dangerous taxi service, but that's not why they face being banned.
Dipo Faloyin
London, GB
An okada drives past a tanker laden with petrol that is on fire in Magboro, Ogun State.
An okada drives past a tanker laden with petrol that is on fire in Magboro, Ogun State. Photo: PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP via Getty Images

Commercial motorcycles popular with jihadis and kidnappers might be banned across the whole of Nigeria as the government tries to clamp down on terror groups. 

The motorcycles, known as okadas, are especially ubiquitous as taxis in major cities – with tens of thousands of them on the roads. 

But, okadas are also regularly used by insurgents in the north of the country to ransack and attack communities. On Tuesday, 17 people were killed in the northern Katsina state when dozens of gunmen on okadas targeted a police station and several village farms. 

On Thursday, Nigeria’s attorney general and minister for justice, Abubakar Malami, announced that the government was looking at ways to disrupt the rising number of terrorist operations, including a nationwide ban on okadas.

Even before their widespread use by terror groups, critics of okadas have long complained that the informal, unregistered taxis are extremely dangerous, causing accidents and traffic. Pro-okada voices say they offer work for young people in a country with very high youth unemployment. 

Several previous attempts to ban commercial motorcycles in the past have either been scrapped before they were implemented or they have quickly returned to roads soon after. The latest attempt was last month, when authorities in Lagos announced – for the third time in the past five years – an immediate ban on all okadas in the state. The local government even made a public show of crushing thousands of impounded bikes, which was met with widespread protests by okada riders.