By EMMA AMAIZE Regional Editor, South South
Amaize in this report looks at how the restriction order on okada in Delta State has brought considerable pains on the commuting public while the keke transport system is yet to be patronised by erstwhile okada riders because of its high cost.
SINCE November 1,2012 when he restriction on commercial motorcycles (Okada) transportation took effect in three prime cities of Delta State, namely Asaba, the state capital, Warri and Effurun, the response has been opinionated, depending on who is speaking and his/her perception of the new development.
However, that it has had both positive and negative impact on the people is unmistakable. To some people, the restriction is good riddance to bad rubbish, while to others, the government has only shown that it is abhorrently insensitive to the pains of the governed, particularly those in the lower social hierarchy, who eke out a living through okada transportation.
Like most policies of government, the discharge of the restriction order on the first day in Warri, Effurun and Asaba was a disappointment. There were insufficient tricycles on the roads and many wondered whether the policy was to worsen or alleviate the plight of the people.
It was later learnt that some leaders of the motorcyclists’ association, who collected the tricycles at a subsidized rate of N150,000 per tricycle from government for distribution to their members, turned it to a business venture by selling them at N250,000 and above to merchants.
The merchants, in turn, sold at between N380,000 and N400,000 to the real users. Government bought it at about N300,000 and the Ministry of Transport recommended that should be sold at N200, 000, but the governor, Dr. Uduaghan, brought it down to N150,000.
Motorcyclists objected to the rip-off by refusing to pay more than the N150,000 approved by government and additional N20,000 registration fee charged by their association. That was why there was inadequate tricycles on the roads on November 1, 2012.
Investigations, however, show that given the bad roads, the tricycles look fragile for transportation in the difficult terrains of the three cities.
The most common problem is that the tyres pull off while in motion putting the users at risk. Vanguard had seen some broken-down tricycles in Warri. Some commuters do not even want to step on the tricycle on grounds that it is not safe.
The Commissioner for Transport, Mr. Ben Igbakpa, admitted in an interview with Vanguard: “What government owes the people are the basic infrastructure and when you talk about infrastructure, you talk about transportation and the basic infrastructure is road.
The governor has given that marching order. He read the riot act recently, authorized and given marching order that between now and December 15, it is the contractor shape in or you shape out. So the contracts have been awarded. He is ready to pay. As soon as you work, you get your money, and it is now the business of the contractor to work
“And let me appeal to my brothers out there that a contractor who is working in your area you should be the one to protect that contractor to actually make sure they work. If you go there and disturb the contractor, it is wrong; we do not have enough time.
This is Niger Delta; it is quite expensive to construct roads here. Again, by March, the dry season is gone and the rains will take over again. The Direct Labour Agency, DLA, has the fundamental work to maintain roads and His Excellency has asked them to do that.”
Vanguard went to town to sample opinion.
Okada is like coffin on two wheels - Ogeah
Commissioner for Information, Mr. Chike Chike Ogeah, who spoke to Vanguard in his office at Asaba, said: “Definitely, it (restriction) is to alleviate the plight of the people, not only to alleviate the plight of the people, but to increase the standard of living of the people if you ask me.
That is why government, in its wisdom, has to replace the much higher and dignified mode of transportation. You were all there when we launched the Marco Polo buses. These buses are supposed to be doing intra and inter-cities.
The reasoning of government is that our children were being maimed on a daily basis and enough is enough. Both the riders and the carriers of these okada, almost like a coffin on two wheels, ply the road without protection, without helmet and all that. Again, in cases of kidnapping, we know the role okada has played in kidnapping and armed robbery. So they use it to commit crime.”
Welcome development – Adimkpaya
Public Relations Officer, PRO, Sports Club, Asaba, Mr. Obi Adimkpaya, in an interview, said: “It is a welcome development, but the connecting roads in Asaba should be repaired to ease transportation”.
Govt should fix the roads – Chair, Labour Party
Chair of Labour Party, LP, DeltaState, Comrade Emeka Nkwoala told Vanguard: “okada should not be the source of earning a living for our people. Where are the industries? It is a good development. However, we expect our government to fix the roads to enable the Keke ply them. We also expect the government to provide enabling environment for businesses to thrive, especially textile and garment. This will go a long way to absorbing the people displaced by this policy in guaranteeing dignity of labour”.
Our problem is bad road – Driver
Peter Afamefula, a commercial taxi driver, who pleaded anonymity said: “Nobody is quarrelling with the ban on okada, but look at the roads. Do we have roads? Instead of government to repair road, they brought out big buses, which roads will the buses pass? Our problem is bad roads.
Good and bad- Civil servant
A civil servant, Miss Blessing Oformiyan, asserted: “To me, the ban on okada is a very good thing when viewed from the associated rate of accidents it has caused. If you go to hospitals, you will see many patients who are victims of Okada accidents. However, I think the timing is wrong because the keke are inadequate. Also, the roads are not good enough. The ban has caused many pains because in the area I stay, there are no taxis and buses. So, we have to trek a long distance with loads, particularly when returning home from market and work. In addition, it has caused displacement in the life style of people, aside the hardship it has brought.
To me, the government should have flooded the towns with the keke, repair the roads, buy more buses before the ban would have taken effect. The ban is not helping us to exercise in any way; it is pains and hardship, cost of boarding a cab has increased because okada is no more.”