•Operators warn that move will worsen hardship among Nigerians
By Tessy Igomu and Fred Ezeh, Abuja
They are commercial motorcyclists popularly called okada. They are everywhere and anywhere. They have become an integral part of Nigeria’s cities’ landscape. To many, they are a necessary evil. They are loathed although they come handy. Indeed, many who have had unpleasant experiences with them would want them chased out of the way.
Many believe that okada operators’ flagrant disobedience to traffic laws is legendary. They insist that that their operations regularly pitch them against the law.
According to recent reports, the number of people who have died at the hands of reckless okada riders is overwhelming.
The Federal Road Safety Corps says that nationwide statistics of accidents involving okada riders was alarming. The agency is therefore calling for a nationwide ban on commercial motorcycle to reduce road accidents.
FRSC said its recommendation formed part of the October Road Traffic Crash Report 2016, submitted by the Corps Marshal, Mr. Boboye Oyeyemi, to the Federal government.
The report quoted Oyeyemi as saying that commercial motorcyclists remained a major cause of fatal road traffic accidents across the country, hence the need for state governments to consider banning them from operating.
According to him, the RTC statistics for October 2016 showed that 230 cases or 18 per cent of a total of 1,259 vehicles involved in accidents within the month were commercial motorcycles.
He stressed that according to the reports, motorcycle accidents ranked third after cars which accounted for 457 cases or 36 per cent, followed by minibuses with 243 or 19 per cent of the total.
Oyeyemi said: “Following the outcome of the analysis, it could be concluded that motorcycles still constitute serious menace on the nation’s highways.
“Accordingly, improved results could be achieved in the future, if more state governments could consider placing a ban on the use of motorcycles for commercial purposes.
“In view of the above, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation should facilitate and encourage state governments to ban the use of motorcycle for commercial purposes.”
He further noted that beside their contributions to road accidents, they have also been linked to the operations of armed robbers, kidnappers and other criminals in several parts of the country.
However, the planned ban is not going down well the commercial motorcycle operators under the aegis of Amalgamated Commercial Motorcycle Owners and Riders Association of Nigeria (ACCOMORAN).
Unhappy and unsettled by the plan, the organisation has not only kicked against it but has described the proposal as a deliberate plan to frustrate and deprive its members of their means of livelihood.
Members of the organisation lamented that despite the suffering and frustrations brought about by unfriendly government policies, it was unfortunate that moves were still being made to further frustrate them into penury. The planned action had therefore generated palpable fear and anxiety among members of the association.
According to the National President of ACCOMORAN, Alhaji Muhammad Hassan, if government went ahead with its plan, over 30 million youths fully engaged in the business of okada riding, would be left in the lurch. He also lamented that many families feeding and being taken care of through the business would become hapless.
His words: “Imagine what would be the fate of these millions of youths if government should go ahead and ban okada nationwide. The implications would not be favourable to all because there would be increase in crime rate and some other social vices.
“Remember that there are mechanics, spare parts dealers, vulcanizers, road-side oil sellers and several others who rely on this business to augment their source of livelihood. They would be seriously affected by this decision. This is really going to be tough for many families.”
Alhaji Hassan appealed to the Federal government and other civil society groups to withdraw their support for the proposed nationwide ban on okada, adding that aside running contrary to labour law, the financial and security implications it would have on the people would be far reaching.
He noted that they were neither notified nor consulted as stakeholders before the decision was reached, stressing that such acts has no place in a democratic dispensation.
“It’s so disheartening to note that FRSC neither consulted nor sought our opinion or suggestions in the programmes it had concerning our members. As a matter of fact, they have consistently imposed on us whatever decisions they reach, even when it concerns our association or members. We were never part of this recent resolve and we have complained to them several times but nothing has been done to correct the injustice,” he said.
He appealed to FRSC authorities to have a rethink on the proposed nationwide ban, as it would create opportunity for people to choose the only option open to them which was crime,” he said.
Speaking on another matter, which he noted had dogged the association for a while, Alhaji Hassan, maintained that the association had distanced itself from the proposed plan by some groups to change the concept and identity of the association, to accommodate commercial tricycle operators, repairers and some others. He further warned those whom he described as stoking the embers of discord to perish the thought.
“There is a pending court case against the purported group; the court has already given an interlocutory order against them, their agents or any other person acting on their behalf from carrying any action or function in the name of the association. I’m urging every member of the group to desist from creating unnecessary clamour,” he said.
Reacting to the proposed ban, okada operators described the idea as unfair, especially more so when it was coming from a government they voted for.
A representative of Motorcycle Operators Association of Lagos State MOALS, Tijani Pekis, said outright ban of the riders would further impoverish them and increase crime rate in the country.
He said: “Government should have a rethink on the planned outright ban; this will help dissuade them (government) from investing in ammunition with which to fight the criminal tendencies that might arise as a result of the ban.
“Many of our members were formerly employees of companies that folded; some were retrenched from their places of employment due to one reason or the other. “So we’re only using okada business to make ends meet. If Lagos State bans okada, does it have the capacity to employ the army of individuals that would be rendered jobless? Or is it interested in worsening the already alarming unemployment rate in Lagos and other parts of the country?
“Okada has been the only means of livelihood for many since unemployment went on the ascendency. The primary duty of the government is to provide for its citizens but in our own case is government doing this?” (The Sun)