By Ebun Babalola
The National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP) of the Federal Government is fast donning a new toga: National Poverty Elongation Programme, in the face of the excruciating hardship supposed beneficiaries go through in obtaining the facilities especially the tricycles popularly called Keke NAPEP or Keke Marwa.
Operators in Lagos are complaining bitterly that not only are the tricycles expensive for a supposed poverty eradication scheme, running the business has been made extremely difficult by policemen and area boys acting in the name of faceless unions.
Operators require a minium of N400,000 to purchase, register and put a tricycle on the road.
Some of them spoke to Saturday Vanguard on the challenges they face:
Edet Iyang, from Akwa Ibom State: “I worked in a textile company for years and there was no pension or gratuity to fall back on and at that point, I considered taking up the Keke marwa business to feed my family. Unfortunately, it has turned to be a thorn in my flesh.
“The work was good at the initial stage because very few people were into it but now it is a business for everybody. When I started I used to realise, about N3,500 on a daily basis out which the owner of the machine would collect N2000 daily. I got this machine on hire purchase. And for hire purchase, the total money to be paid is N550,000 before you finally become the owner of the machine.
“If I have a better option, I wouldn’t mind because it is difficult to operate. The truth is that so many people who came into this job were forced out by the challenges. Some okada riders who came in are now running out because they can’t continue. They now find out that riding okada is better than keke marwa.
Our major problem is the union. They demand money from us unnecessarily. We pay N600,00 to them. What I heard was that the introduction of keke marwa was to alleviate poverty but as it is now, it is business for the rich.
“Anyone who wants to come into this business, must have close to four hundred thousand naira cash.
And if you are buying on hire purchase, you should be ready to N550,000 because the owner of the machine will take interest.”
Innocent Okwe, from Benue State: “I came into this work because the company I was working in folded up and instead of staying idle, I ventured into this business to start up my life again.
I was able to save some money through the shares I sold and bought the keke marwa at the rate of N350,000. Registration and some other documents cost N82,000.00.
“When I started, the business hadn’t grown to this point. If I see another job, I will quickly go for it. This work is demanding and there is nothing to show for it.
“They said, the business was created for poverty alleviation, now policemen, union, association have turned it to be bad business for operators. These people are extorting and exploiting us. There are some places that you have to settle before you will be allowed to ply the route. You have to comply.
“The work is good and helpful, but, exploitation by the so called area boys, policemen, land owners and union is frustrating. Their demands are unbearable”.
Amusa Matthew, a former security officer in a bank said: “If you consider the stress in the job, it’s not worth it at all. This particular work is demanding. If it rains, it must fall on us, even the sunshine is all over us. To get all the documents starting the business is stressful. Having the money to buy keke marwa is not enough.
The documents including rider’s card, which is renewed every year and other documents must be obtained before you are fully registered.
Sebastian Emenina: “When I came into the business about a year ago, my expectation was different to what I’m encountering. Everyday, we pay N600 to agbero (union), and on every Mondays and Thursdays, we pay N750.
“I am a family man and I must live up to my expectation. There is no much gain from the business. It’s like union want us to go home without a penny. We are having more people becoming into the business.
“The challenge in hire purchase is that if you cannot meet the owner’s expectation, he will have to give it to a better offer.”