By Wole Mosadomi
MINNA- Niger State has had its own bitter experience of the Boko Haram nightmare, with attacks from the dreaded terrorists leaving scores of people dead and property worth millions of naira destroyed. The tragic incidents also left a thick cloud of fear in the state.
The attacks came in the form of series of bomb blasts in Suleja town and its suburb. These ugly incidents caught the Niger State government somehow unawares and gave it a lot to worry about.
Security reports and analysis by relevant security agents in the state to government revealed that commercial motor cycles popularly known as Okada were mostly used by perpetrators of the dastardly act. It was obviously against this backdrop that, last year, the state government came out with an order banning Okada outrightly as a means of transportation in Minna, the state capital.
But following strident and sustained criticisms by both commuters and members of the Amalgamated Commercial Motorcycle Owners and Rider’s Association of Nigeria, ACCOMORAN, the decision was reversed. Instead of an outright ban, the state government restricted the operation of Okada riders to between 6am to 6pm, while further steps were being worked out on how to improve transportation system in the state.
Besides their perceived involvement in crimes in the state, most Okada riders are also seen as very lawless and disobedient, especially with regards to their refusal to wear crash helmets, frequent resort to over-speeding and failure to put on number plates, among other infractions. In fact, statistics on road accidents within Minna was said to have dropped drastically since the restriction of Okada movement in Minna.
A visit by Vanguard Metro, VM, to the Minna General Hospital showed that the accident wards were virtually empty as against the past few months before the restriction of the Okada riders when the wards were always filled up with casualties from motorcycle accidents.
But Tuesday, February 26, brought cheering news as Governor Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu announced the purchase of 1000 tricycles and 14 mass transit buses. It was a development that caught majority of Okada operators unawares as they were given only three weeks to keep off the streets of Minna.
The Governor, while launching the tricycles and buses, said the decision should not be seen as punitive but as a bold step to save lives on the roads. “We are tired of losing precious lives in avoidable road crashes involving motorcycles in different parts of the state.
The decision should not be misunderstood as a punitive measure to deny people their means of livelihood but rather as a necessary step aimed at ensuring the safety of lives on our roads,” the Governor remarked. He did not stop there. “Besides reducing youth unemployment and poverty in the state and also improving the socio-economic lives of the people, it is also aimed at addressing some of the security challenges in the state,” he added.
Each of the tricycles was purchased at N624,700 but sold at the subsidized rate of N400,000 only to beneficiaries and payable in 18 months from date of allocation just as the Governor called on the beneficiaries to ensure prompt payment and ensure that all the safety measures are observed in order to give room for others to benefit.
State chairman of ACCOMORAN, Alhaji Musa Ishaku, in an interview, said though the restriction of their movement by the state government last year was first misunderstood and seen as punitive, but it later came to be accepted as a good step taken by government to fight crime as well as identify and separate his members from the fake riders who are only out to perpetrate crime.
Ishaku, however, lamented that out of the officially registered 9000 Okada riders in Minna, only 300 will be gainfully engaged with the initial delivery of only 300 tricycles out of the promised 1000, leaving a shortfall of 8,700 riders.