Nigerian bikers wear fruit shells to avoid helmet law

Wed Jan 7, 2009 2:43pm EST
 
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Mike Oboh

KANO, Nigeria (Reuters) - Police in Nigeria have arrested scores of motorcycle taxi riders with dried fruit shells, paint pots or pieces of rubber tire tied to their heads with string to avoid a new law requiring them to wear helmets.

The regulations have caused chaos around Africa's most populous nation, with motorcyclists complaining helmets are too expensive and some passengers refusing to wear them fearing they will catch skin disease or be put under a black magic spell.

The law, which came into force on January 1, pits two factions equally feared by the common motorist against one another: erratic motorcycle taxis known as "Okadas," whose owners are notorious for road-rage, and the bribe-hungry traffic police.

Some bikers have used calabashes -- dried shells of pumpkin-sized fruit usually used as a bowl -- or pots and pans tied to their heads with string to try to dodge the rules.

Construction workers have set up a lucrative trade renting out their safety helmets for around 500 naira ($3.60) a day.

"They use pots, plates, calabashes, rubber and plastic as makeshift helmets," said Yusuf Garba, commander of the Federal Road Safety Commission in the northern town of Kano.

"We will not tolerate this. We gave them enough time to purchase helmets. Six months ago the price of helmets was below 800 naira so complaints about non-availability and high prices are no excuse," he told Reuters.

Helmet prices have since risen sharply as sellers cash in on demand.   Continued...

 
<p>A Nigerian motorcyclist, wearing a makeshift helmet, waits in traffic in Lagos January 7, 2009. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye</p>