I was just six years old when my family and I relocated from the ancient city of Kano to a different part of the country. Yes, that was over two decades ago, but I found myself reminiscing as the plane entered the city’s airspace and gradually made its descent toward the Aminu Kano International Airport. Peering through the darkness that filled the sky, beneath us was the metropolis, full of light and life; it reminded me of images I saw of Las Vegas in the movies, and I was awed by the level of growth and development since I left.
The next morning I set out for Ado Bayero Mall for my official assignment. I boarded a tricycle popularly called Adaidai ta sahu from my hotel in Sabon Gari. As we journeyed, I noticed a metal barricade on the left side of the tricycle that allowed passengers to board and alight through the right side only. ‘This is a weird personal style that is inconveniencing,’ I pondered. As we arrived at the bus stop to the mall, I realised that all the tricycles had the same metal barricades. ‘I must find out the reason the next time I ride,’ I assured myself.
‘Assalam ‘alaikum (Arabic: peace be unto you),’ I saluted the little girl seated beside me. She bowed her head blushingly. Then, impulsively, I leaned forward and poked the driver in a bid to gratify my curiosity on the metal barricades. Getting his attention, I turned leftward pointing at the bar but was shocked at what I beheld. A few months old baby kept with reckless abandon on the seat. ‘Wanene da jariri? Dauke ki rike ta da sauri!’ (Hausa: Whose baby is this? Pick her up and hold her quickly!), I said. And hastily she picked up the baby and held her in her arms.I told the driver not to bother, I have seen the reason to the question I wanted to ask him. He said mothers here are careless with their children. Everyday kids fall out from tricycles suffering serious and sometimes fatal injuries. To stem this, the government gave a directive that every tricycle operator must barricade the left side of his tricycle.
We got to a roundabout where a traffic policeman saw how the little girl held her baby and he showered her with praises saying, “Haka ya kamata! Chigaba haka! Allah ya tsare! (meaning: That is how it should be! Continue like this. May God protect you!)
Throughout the journey, I was unsettled at the reality – the reality of forced/child married. This child-mother is not more than twelve (12) years old, yet she has been put in the family way. How can a child nurse another?
In 2017 in Nigeria, 43% of girls were married off before the age of eighteen (18). 17% were married before they turn 15. Nigeria is the 11th highest nation in the world for number of child marriages (Wikipedia, 2017).
Africa Development Information 2015 Report on Sustainable Development Goal, SDG ranked Kano State wit 68% prevalence of forced/child marriage. Jigawa and Abia States recorded the highest and lowest rates of 87% and 9%, respectively.
With this statistics, the barricades on the over seventy thousand (70,000) tricycles currently plying the city can only do little in preventing children from falling.
The Reality of Forced/Child Marriage
Table showing high and low official marriage ages across countries dominated by a particular religion.
* Extrapolated by me
According to the table, every religion has breached the provisions of the United Nations Convention on Rights of the Child, UNCRC by legislating marriage ages below 18. It is, therefore, wrong for Nigerians living in the south of the country to stereotype Islam or the north on this issue. According to studies, forced/child marriage is more endemic in Less Developed Countries, LDCs, and less in the First World Countries. Countrywide, it is more prevalent in the north due to their peculiar development challenges.
Solution to Forced/Child Marriage in Kano State
“The people need to prioritize their commitment towards the education of females just like their male counterparts.” — Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Emir of Kano.
A society can not make progress by neglecting an important part of human development — the women. An African adage says, “If you educate a man, you educate an individual; but if you educate a woman, you educate a whole nation.”
“Children begging on the street instead of going to school will be arrested and their parents arrested and charged to court for prosecution because begging is not our religion. Begging is not Islam.” — Abdullahi Ganduje, Governor of Kano State.
I would like to say with every sense of respect, ‘child/forced marriage is not Islam or Christian. I therefore, call on Governor Ganduje to extend this directive to the education of the girl-child in his domain by arresting and prosecuting anyone who gives and/or receives little girls in marriage. Secondary school education should be the least for the girl-child. I have known the governor to be radical and fearless with his development policies, thus, he should not look back on ending this anti-human and anti developmental tradition. As the leading state in the north, Kano should be the first to outlaw forced/child marriage.
The Tricycle Menace in Kano City
In 2013, the state government introduced the use of tricycles for commercial transportation as a replacement to the banned motorcycles in order to eliminate the dangers of crime and accidents and return sanity to the city. The decision was received with much excitement by Kanawas. But their celebration was short lived as the tricycles out did the motorcycles in infamy. Public security and safety was under attack daily by rape, kidnapping, accidents, robbery, and murder perpetrated with the use of tricycles.
The government is considering banning the tricycles in favor of buses. Hear the Managing Director of the Kano State Road Traffic Authority, KAROTA:
“The security agencies are compiling their reports with regards to the menace being caused by the tricycle riders in the state and if in the end, the security agencies bring to the notice of the Kano State Executive Council that the menace is too much to be accommodated, and the operation be stopped, certainly, we will have to impose the recommendations by stopping the operation of commercial tricycles in the state the way operations of commercial motorcycles were banned.”— Daily Trust, 2019
The Cause of the Menace
The cause of the problem aside criminality, is lack of knowledge and obedience of traffic rules and regulations, you can call it Traffic Illiteracy, and abuse of substances. If they know better, they will act better. This issue is not peculiar to Kano. In Lagos, commercial motorcyclists, danfo and molue drivers exhibit the same behaviour under the influence of cannabis and alcohol. No one certifies them fit before they get behind the wheel.
The Solution — A Tripartite Partnership
Since ignorance and disregard for traffic rules have been identified as the root cause of the threat to road safety, I therefore recommend a tripartite partnership involving KAROTA, the Association of Commercial Tricycle Operators, and the merchants of tricycles in the sate. The government should consider doing the following:
- A new body or the existing one should be set up and/or empowered to orientate and test the existing and new tricycle riders for one week and at the end issue them licenses of road worthiness.
- The association of tricycle operators should make sure all their members partake in the program, and also exercise punitive measures in cases of indiscipline.
- Merchants of tricycles in the state should not sale tricycles to buyers until they provide their license from the state agency. Confirmation would be made by checking the data bank of qualified persons from the state government traffic agency. A mobile app can be developed for this purpose.
- Lastly, the government should impose fines that are affordable and easy to collect from defaulters. This revenue can be used to fund the work of the traffic agency.
Kano is world renowned for its rich history of city states, trade and commerce, and rich cultural heritage. However, it is long overdue for this regional center of commerce to move to the next level of becoming an industrial hub. It can only achieve this by prioritizing the education of the girl-child, and also, sanitizing the transport system by orienting the operators. This should be done with the highest level of creativity and innovation with respect to the customs and traditions, and development challenges local to it. I am proud to be born here.
Long live Kano!
Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria!