The federal and state governments need to evolve a well-articulated transport policy that would take into consideration the development of the rails, marine ways and modernization of the country’s roads to improve public transportation.
Recently the media reported that the federal government was considering a nationwide ban on the use of Motorcycles as a means of public transportation in Nigeria. The Deputy-Director of Press in the Ministry of Transport noted in a statement that though the ban had taken effect in some states including Abuja, “the proposition for a nation-wide ban was contained in a communiqué issued after a week-long” National Council of Transport (NCT) meeting in Abakpa Nike, Enugu.
The grief which commercial motor cycles popularly known as “Okada” have brought to many homes across the country is quite unfortunate. According to statistics from Lagos State Management Authority (LAWMA), not less than 619 commercial motorcycles passengers and riders were killed or seriously injured on Okada accident between 2011 and 2012 in Lagos. Besides safety issues, there is security dimension concerning Okada riders. In fact a police report indicated that between July and September out of 30 armed robbery incident recorded in the state, 22 came from commercial motorcycles. Also the lawlessness of commercial motorcyclists on most roads especially major highways is quite annoying.
That is why this Newspaper is in support of the purposed ban because even though the use emerged as a child of necessity, it has since become a source of insecurity, premature death, the cause of very severe injuries that have left many Nigerians incapacitated for life and an embarrassment to the whole nation.
Though who ever thought to start using Okada especially in the rural areas initially could be considered ingenious in his thinking, the aftermath is not welcoming. While it initially met the transportation needs of the rural areas and soon found its way into the cities, the attitude of the government and Motorcycle Riders Associations towards the advent leaves much to be desired.
We think that when the occupation had gained acceptance, there should have been some form of intervention that would ensure training for who ever wanted to become a rider. While the government sets standards for four-wheeled vehicles, there was no form of license issued as evidence of training for Okada riders.
Perhaps before implementing the nation-wide ban on Okada, both the federal and state governments need to evolve a well-articulated transport policy that would take into consideration the development of the rails, marine ways and modernization of the country’s roads to improve public transportation.
Indeed, Nigeria’s coastal areas are not being put to use at all! Is it enough to allow ships in and out of Nigerian waters for cargo exchange only? In other countries blessed with rivers and coastal waters as Nigeria is, ferries and other forms of transportation are put in place to make movement easy. We wonder why there are no visible public- private partnerships that will ease transportation problems if Government cannot provide the funds.
We do not believe that Governments should because of costs construct roads that are unsafe for pedestrians. Visits to other countries show roads planned for different cadres of road users. In Nigeria, being a pedestrian is very uncomfortable. One is either made to walk on gutters covered with slabs that sometimes are broken and accidents waiting to happen or forced to walk on the tarred portion of the road since other areas that could have been used are taken over by traders or commercial motorists. In some countries the entrance to the wide sidewalks are blocked with bollards to prevent unwanted use by other road users, in Nigeria on the other hand, when wide sidewalks are provided, government officials even conspire to convert them to parking lots for public transport drivers after such drivers have paid the levy demanded.
With the current disposition of the government towards Okada as a public means of transportation, government should now do more on creating employment opportunities for Nigerians. We believe that if the Government puts in place an employment policy that ensures jobs that will afford people food on their tables and meet their basic necessities instead of window dressing, Okada riding as a means of earning an income will not be so attractive because it is obvious that it is a fragile means of transportation and in Nigeria a walking death.