All is not well with the immediate past governor of Niger State, Dr. Muazu Babangida Aliyu. Fifty civil servants in the state have sued him for N100m for ‘illegally’ seizing their motorcycles and allegedly selling them at give – away prices to proxies. Will they get justice? HAMMED SALAWU captures the scenario.
To some observers in Niger State, the saying that “the evil that men do lives after them” seems to be haunting the immediate past governor of Niger State, Dr. Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu. The ban on operations of commercial motor cycles carried out in good faith on January 2, 2014, appears to be an albatross hanging on the neck of the former governor.
On May29, 2015, at the inauguration arena at the Bako Kontagora Township Stadium in Minna metropolis, the issue almost consumed the life of the ex-governor who had come to the occasion ostensibly to “steal the show” at the handing over ceremony to a new government. Unfortunately, irate youths in their numbers seized the occasion to publicly humiliate the former governor, calling him unprintable names while also hauling stones at him.
But for the quick intervention of security operatives at the stadium, he would have been sleazed alive! The bone of contention was the sale of motorcycles seized by the government of Muazu on allegations that the impounded motorcycles infringed the law banning the operations of motorcycles within Minna town and other designated zonal capitals in the state. The aggrieved owners said while government gave the directive that to reclaim your bikes, you must pay N50, 000, those who could not pay ended up forfeiting bikes. Owners of the impounded vehicles protested that the government went ahead to auction the bikes to proxies of the governor at give – away prices between N 2,000 and N 5,000.
Smarting from the stadium showdown, aggrieved owners of the bikes numbering fifty civil servants in the state dragged the former governor to a Minna High Court demanding N100m in compensation and general damages over the “unlawful seizure and sale of their motorcycles” which they said amounted to violation of their fundamental human rights.
The applicants in a suit filed at High Court 4 dated 12/5/2015 and filed on 25/5/2015 by their counsel, Barrister Adegoke Omoloja of Cosmic Chambers, Abuja, prayed the court for a declaration that the seizure and the subsequent sale of the applicants motorcycles by the former governor through his commissioner of works was illegal, null and void and constituted violation of their fundamental human rights as enshrined in the constitution.
The applicants also prayed the court for an order awarding compensation of one million naira in favour of each applicant against the respondents and another N50million as general damages.
In a 60-paragraph affidavit in support of the case deposed to by one Ndagi Mohammed, The applicants (civil servants) said that the arrest, seizure and sale of their motorcycles brought untold hardship and difficulties to their families, especially in transporting them to work, conveying their children to school and their wives to hospitals for maternity checks.
According to the aggrieved civil servants, they bought the bikes on loan. “Some of us bought the motorcycles through cooperatives (as can be seen on purchase receipts attached) on loan which they still deduct from our salaries monthly”, one of them said.
The counsel stated that the then governor acted as prosecutor, judge, jury and auctioneer which were direct violation of “our right to fair hearing”, adding that “our freedom to movement and right to liberty has been violated by the restriction placed on motorcycles by the first respondent, Dr Muazu Babangida Aliyu”. The case has been fixed for 29/6/2015 for hearing.
Former governor Aliyu, on Sunday, January 2, 2014, ordered the enforcement of the traffic law banning the operations of commercial motorcyclists in Minna. The directive was contained in a statement issued by the then Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Danladi Ndayebo.
The statement said adequate arrangements had been made to cushion the effect of the ban. It added that the Ministry of Transportation had received 1,000 tricycles in addition to eight units of 18-seater buses. It stated that another 12 units of 100 capacity Bus Rapid Transport buses were already operating in the state to ease transportation problems. The statement pointed out that the traffic law had come to stay and would be strictly enforced. It dismissed fears that motorcycle operators would be out of jobs as a result of the ban.
To give teeth to the directive later, the then governor said that the state government would not suspend the enforcement of the traffic law banning the operations of commercial motorcyclists in the state capital despite sponsored articles in the media calling for the repeal of the law.
The former governor said several people were either killed or maimed in accidents involving commercial motorcycles popularly called Okada in the last few years thus necessitating the ban on their operation. Ndayebo said that investigation by the Police and the Ministry of Transportation showed that several people either died or sustained serious injuries in accidents involving motorcycles.
Reinforcing the ban at a later event, ex-governor Aliyu gave three weeks ultimatum to commercial motorcyclists within which to stop operation within and outskirt of Minna, the state capital. Speaking while launching the first phase of 1,000 “Keke Chief Servant” and “Chief Servant’s City Mass Transit Scheme” at the Trade Fair Complex, Minna, Aliyu stated that the ban covered the city center to Chanchaga, Gurusu, Maikunkele and Gidan Kwano (FUT) in Bosso and Chanchaga Local Government Councils.
He said the ban would not affect other local government areas in the state until the tricycles and mini buses were purchased to replace the commercial motorcycles in those areas adding that no more carrying of three people on a single bike throughout the state.
Former Governor Aliyu said the decision to introduce the “Keke Chief Servant” and ban the Okada operators had to do with the prevailing security situation, as well as the increasing rate of crimes in the country most of which were being perpetrated by hoodlums on motorcycles.
Aliyu also disclosed that the 7pm to 7am restriction imposed on motorcycles in the state was still in force assuring that the decision to ban Okada riders was not to create hardship to anybody adding that the life and security of the citizens was of paramount importance to his administration.
The then ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the state also endorsed the ban saying, “the state government acted responsibly in the overriding interest of the public in banning the operations of commercial motorcyclists in the state capital”.
Efforts to get the reaction of the former governor through Ndayebo, who later became the Commissioner of Information in the government on the latest development did not yield positive, even as the former commissioner declined to comment on it saying that it would be prejudicial to comment on matters before the court.
The civil servants are full of expectation that they would get justice at the end of the day.