By Charly Agwam
IT was meant to instil sanity in the state capital but it has backfired! The Bauchi State Government is not reaping the intended benefits it envisaged when it slammed a ban on commercial motorcycles otherwise called ‘Okada’ or ‘Achaba’.
While that brand of commercial motorcycling appears to have receded to the hinterland, a more reckless type of ride-hailing business has emerged in the capital with more threats to lives and property. It is undertaken by mostly those who were barred from operating the Okada business due to safety concerns and a new dimension of followers- very young children who are mostly school dropouts are now plying the business with reckless abandon.
Following the ban on commercial motorcycle riders otherwise called Okada or Achaba in Bauchi metropolis by Governor Bala Mohammed last year, Keke NAPEP tricycle has become the most popular means of road transportation by which many Bauchi residents move around the metropolis.
Arewa Voice investigation revealed that one out of every three journeys undertaken might be operated by an underage child for the sake of making quick cash to eke out a living due to the level of poverty in the land. The situation in Bauchi has become exacerbated due to the prevalence of no fewer than 1.4 out-of-school children in the state along, according to the UNICEF.
The influx of Keke NAPEP tricycle: Apart from the influx of Keke NAPEP tricycles from other states to Bauchi and residents who have seized the opportunity created by the ban on commercial motorcycle riders to purchase as many tricycles as possible, the state government also purchased over 1,000 tricycles to cushion the effect of the ban on commercial motorcycle in the state.
This, Arewa Voice learned, has made tricycles available in every nook and cranny of the metropolis, giving out-of-school children who would rather work than beg, the opportunity to make money from passengers they ride around the city.
The racketeering that forced the reappearance of Okada riders on Bauchi roads: Arewa Voice had reported in a previous edition on how bureaucratic bottlenecks and corruption had hindered commercial motorcycle riders, for whom the Bauchi State government bought over 1,000 Keke NAPEP tricycles on hire purchase agreement, from accessing the tricycles. Findings revealed that the racketeering in the distribution of the 1,000 Keke NAPEP tricycles, which left out legitimate Okada riders, allowed school-age out-of-school teenagers to have access to the tricycles.
What passengers are saying: Some passengers who have boarded Keke NAPEP tricycles ridden by school-age riders in the past told Arewa Voice about their experiences. Patience Sunday, a mother of one, said that she witnessed an accident caused by a school-age Keke NAPEP rider along Yelwa road last week.
She said: “Last week, Wednesday, I was going to Dass park to fix my hair when a Keke NAPEP in front of us made a U-turn without waiting to see if there was an oncoming vehicle. Unfortunately, an oncoming car that probably didn’t see the errant Keke NAPEP rider on time, collided with the tricycle, but thankfully, nobody sustained any serious injury.
“However, I think that cases like this can be avoided if the authorities take action to stop underage children from riding Keke NAPEP tricycles. First, it is child abuse to see children who should be in school riding tricycles. Secondly, it is very risky because allowing this (kid riders) to continue, endangers everyone’s life. And you know what’s worse? These kid riders usually share their small seat with their friends who they carry along for the whole day. The authorities should also look into this bad habit.”
Another resident, Khalid Ibrahim, recalled how a road accident that claimed more than 20 lives in Bauchi was caused by a kid Keke rider about two months ago.
“You will remember that accident that occurred, I think, along Maiduguri road where 20 people were burnt beyond recognition. I learned that it was caused by a small boy that tried to make a u-turn with his Keke NAPEP tricycle in the middle of the highway, causing two vehicles to collide and go up in flames. I have since sworn not to enter any Keke NAPEP tricycle with a little boy as its rider,” he said.
We impound, issue tickets for Keke NAPEP tricycle —FRSC
The Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC, Bauchi Command has said that they usually impound Keke NAPEP tricycle with kid riders and call the owner of the tricycles to collect them for a fee. According to FRSC Sector Commander, Yusuf Abdullahi: “We enlighten and educate them because it has become a menace. We know that the government’s empowerment programme brought in Keke NAPEP; so you see everybody trying to get something to live on. But our own is to keep them enlightened through the media and even through one-on-one meetings.
“And enforcement is also ongoing to fish out the erring ones among them. We have provision for underage in our enforcement tickets. When we go on air, we also educate people and tell the parents that they are not safe on account of what they allowed their children to go into.
“We have age limit for driving and the same applies to riding also. So automatically, it is not allowed. If we catch anybody that is below the age, we apprehend, educate and restrict the person. We also impound the Keke and ask the parents or the owner to come and collect it. We do the same thing to the ones we find on the road. So, we are basically educating, enlightening and enforcing the law to make sure that our roads are safe.”