BY CHIBUEZE IYEGBU / OREVAOGHENE EDOGE
WITHIN a period of few months from now, commercial motorcycle, popularly known as okada will give way to tricycles in Asaba and Warri, the two major cities in Delta State. The planned phasing out of commercial motorcycle is aimed at saving lives and bringing decency to city life. Our features writers, CHIBUEZE IYEGBU and OREVAOGHENE EDOGE report.
Once upon a time, walking was the main means of transportation on land but with civilization came the use of carriages, bicycles, trains, cars and motorcycles. All these have been enhanced and now come in different varieties. For instance, the traditional motorcycles have been improved into tricycles commonly known as Keke NAPEP.
In Nigeria today, the major means of transportation is the motorcar while those who do not have cars opt for commercial taxis, buses or commercial motorcycles commonly known as okada. Over the years, people have complained of the reckless way okada riders ride their motorcycles, putting the lives of innocent citizens in danger by trying to fit into small areas that they normally cannot enter, overtaking other cars recklessly and then at times engaging in criminal activities. It is true that okada has its advantages: it carries people to their doorsteps; it is very fast and can beat traffic. It can also navigate through roads that cars cannot pass through. But this advantage of okada cannot be compared to the number of lives and property that are getting lost due to the reckless use of okada.
These are some of the reasons why the Delta State Government has decided to gradually phase out the use of okada in the state. Commercial motorcycles will soon be a thing of the past for Asaba and Warri, the cities which fall into the first phase of the scheme as the Delta State Government has launched its ‘tricycle scheme’ in the state.
The decision of the state government to phase out commercial okada between now and October is predicated on the fact that the use of tricycles reduces the rate of accidents, carries more passengers and offers more comfort and convenience to passengers, help people save more money as it is cheaper and provides employment for youths. Consequently, Deltans have been urged to prepare for a new dawn.
Keke NAPEP is a motorised three wheel cycle that comes in several varieties mostly built around a motorcycle. They can conveniently accommodate three to four passengers. Luggage or boxes can be placed on top of some tricycles.
Throwing light on the tricycle operation, the State Commissioner for Transport, Hon. Benson Igbakpa, said the tricycles would ply designated routes in Asaba and Warri. According to him, the decision to phase out commercial okada between now and October is to bring decency into the transport system, especially in the urban centres where both okada and taxis compete on the highway.
The Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, has also lent his voice to the tricycle operation when he addressed journalists in Asaba recently. He was quick to add that tricycles could carry more passengers than okada and also has more comfort for passengers than okada. In his words, “in about four months from now okada will give way for tricycles in our cities”.
Delta State will not be the first state to relocate commercial okada from major cities. Bauchi State launched 210 tricycles to members of Tricycle and Achaba Riders Association across 20 Local Government Areas (LGAs) of the state as part of the state’s efforts to reduce poverty and unemployment, create jobs for the teeming youths in the state and to reduce the rate of accidents in the state. And since the introduction of the use of tricycles in the state, the rate of okada related accidents has reduced by 98%. Oyo State Government has also made available 1000 tricycles as part of the poverty alleviation programme of its administration and as a plan to ensure that every employable citizen of Oyo state is engaged. This is to ensure that the level of unemployment is grossly reduced in the state.
It is on this strength that the Delta State Government is now ready to do same to restore dignity of city centres and the Government Reserved Areas (GRA) of the state.
Some people are against the idea of phasing out commercial okada as they believe that it is another ploy to send the riders into the unemployment market. While some are of this opinion, others hold that tricycles are safer than okada whose riders are reckless on the streets and it is cheaper compared to okada. Besides, most okada operators are now leaving their motorcycles for Keke NAPEP because it brings more money as it could carry at least three or four passengers at the same time. Hence, the introduction of tricycles into Delta city centres will be of advantage to okada passengers.
This issue of ‘Keke NAPEP’ is generally a welcome idea but as with any kind of change, there will definitely be different opinions, with some ‘for’ while others ‘against’. The major issue is the economic implication on the teeming number of okada riders who are mainly youths. It would seem to be negative but in the long run it would be considered positive development because the issue of crime with okada will be past, lives will not be lost recklessly and there will be lesser accidents along major roads in the cities.
Those who are opposed to the move argue that the proposed phasing out of commercial okada by October would tell on the economic life of the riders. They count the number of Deltans who feed their families through okada riding. According to them, many okada riders are graduates but for lack of good paid jobs, they resort to okada riding. They also look at the cost of purchasing the tricycles. Although the pattern to be employed in releasing the tricycles to the would be beneficiaries is yet to be unravelled, observers are of the view that the cost might be more than what the okada riders can afford.
Others are looking at the number of tricycles that would be purchased that could go round the number of okada riders in the two major cities in the state. This is based on the fact that an overview of okada users in the cities, one may be right to say that okada riders are more in number than vehicle users.
Also, members of the okada riders association have debunked the claim that okada is used for crime. They fault the assumption that because okada is used for crime it should be banned. Comrade Elvis Okolie, the National Public Relations Officer of the body said “it is true that we have been seen, classified, assumed and tagged criminals and hoodlums, but that is not true because the highest crimes committed so far in this country were not committed with motorcycles or tricycles but with vehicles”.
According to him, the number of kidnap cases recorded in the country was mostly carried out with vehicles and not okada. He also said serious armed robbery operations are done with the use of vehicles. Some of these robbers are well dresses to the extent that they can be mistaken for Managing Directors of organisations, yet underneath their trousers are dangerous weapons.
Irrespective of the element of truth in these assertions, the establishment of government in any society is to better the lots of its citizens. Hence, Delta State Government has good intentions for its citizens. Hopefully, this change will be one that Deltans will not regret on the long run and one that will help improve the quality of life and save more lives as any policy initiated by the government is for the benefit and safety of the people.
BY CHIBUEZE IYEGBU / OREVAOGHENE EDOGE