By Emem Idio
YENAGOA—MANY young girls of Ijaw ethnic nationality have involuntarily taken to riding commercial tricycles, popularly known as Keke Napep, to earn a living at Yenagoa, capital of Bayelsa State, following the high level of unemployment caused by the prevailing economic situation in the country.
Findings by Niger Delta Voice showed that quite a number of commercial tricycle operators operating at Yenagoa were mostly girls and commuters seem to prefer them to their male counterparts because they were reportedly more dependable.
Why I opted for commercial tricycle rider– Miss Clement
One of them, a former food vendor, Miss Adi Clement, who, ironically, hails from same country home as the incumbent governor of the state, Hon. Seriake Dickson, said the government could not provide her a job, and instead of idling away, she decided to take the bull by the horns by venturing into the male-dominated vocation.
Smartly dressed in jeans jacket and face cap, Miss Clement, who spoke to NDV at Yenagoa, asserted: “I choose keke because I like driving and its fun for me and besides, since I have come to realize that there are no well-paid jobs anywhere in the state I decided to take to keke to carry on with my life instead of staying at home and idling away.
”Before this time, I was a food vendor; I prefer keke because I have some time for myself unlike food vendor where I hardly have time because after the day’s sales, you immediately start to prepare against the next day. You go to bed late and wake up very early. But as a keke operator, when I close by 6.00 pm, I have more time to rest and recover.
“I started last year and I am operating on a hire purchase ownership arrangement, but thank God, I have almost finished the repayment process. In a few weeks from now, I will now claim full ownership of the tricycle, though it is very lucrative, but it has not been easy.”
Coping with male counterparts/touts’ taunting
As it is common in other sectors of commercial transportation, touting and taunting are also widespread in the commercial tricycle sub sector where operators are constantly harassed and sometimes molested by task force agents and unions. However, the female operators say they have come to accept it as a norm and were coping with the trend.
Miss Clement hinted: “In this business, we know that touting or taunting is part of the whole thing, so we have come to accept it and see it as one of the hazards of the trade and we are coping well, we do not have problem with them. We are beginning to see it now as a normal thing.”
Initial discrimination by passengers
Her words: “At first most people were afraid and concerned about their safety in the hands of a lady keke rider, so they were at first not comfortable and most times declined to board our keke. But gradually, a lot of people have come to the realization that we are as good, if not better than the men. Now, people patronize and prefer us to the men because we are more safety conscious. Some people even show appreciation by giving us mouth-watering tips.
Advice to teeming unemployed
“Our young people should stop waiting and depending on the government. Whatever you can do with your hands, try to do it. It takes courage and determination, and faith without works is dead. We should try self-reliance and entrepreneurship since government jobs are scarce and nonexistent these days.”
Why we prefer female riders– Commuters
A cross section of commuters, who spoke to NDV, said they had no qualms boarding tricycles operated by ladies, emphasizing that women were naturally more safety conscious and traffic rule-compliant than men.
Madam Joyce Ifiemi, who hires the services of a lady Keke operator on a daily basis said: “The women are calmer; they do not overload or over speed and people, particularly market women, prefer them.”