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Okada ban and insensitivity of state governors

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IMAGE: Okada riders »

“We have okada too in Rwanda. It is a lucrative business. A good number of people are doing okada business in Rwanda. But their activities are well-regulated. There are rules and regulations that define the limit of their operation.

We also organise them into groups, such as Association of Owners and Association of Operators. The groups help in ensuring that the rules and regulations are duly observed. Because we have rules, institutions and structures in place, we do not have much problem with okada operators.”

—Paul Kagame, Rwandan President

That simple! There goes a responsible leader who understands the struggles of his countrymen. He has gone the extra-mile to ensure he sustains the source of livelihood of commercial motorcycle operators in his country irrespective of their place on the rungs of the social ladder.

Asking commercial motorcycle operators popularly known as okada to find alternative means of livelihood is the height of insensitivity by Nigerian state governors to the plight of compatriots. If there were better options they wouldn’t be riding bikes in the first place.

Okada restriction in some parts of Lagos and Delta states in recent months has now berthed in Edo State. Governor Adams Oshiomhole upon his re-election reiterated that there was no plan to ban Okada in the state; “It is a class issue and I belong to the working class, so I cannot ban Okada. First, I believe that okada is a response to certain deficit in our intra-urban transport system”. But on June 11, 2013, all of that changed when the state government announced that there would be a ban (or restriction) on the activities of commercial motorcycle operators (bike riders) across Egor, Oredo and Ikpoba-Okha Local Government Areas. The ban was extended to Oluku and Aduwawa which were not listed in the three local government areas but are parts of the Benin City Metropolis. I believe that the governor, like Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State, was ill-advised. It is a policy that will further impoverish the people that have already been pauperised by similar anti-people moves like the fuel subsidy removal that was vehemently resisted by Nigerians to no avail.  It is not accidental that most states where okada has been banned have governors in their second terms. To test how unpopular such a move is, very few governors will risk re-election by banning commercial motorcycles in their first term. Fashola, “Before election in 2011, gave helmets and vests to okada riders.” An opposition spokesman was quoted as saying. “The okada riders were behind Fashola everywhere he went to campaign, then they were not armed robbers and they were not causing accidents. Weeks after he got the second term, he started chasing them everywhere.”

It is a fallacy of hasty generalisation, that all okada riders are armed robbers, hence, responsible for the rise in crime rate and all accidents on Nigerian roads. Such must be premised on some kind of prejudice for them or at best, lazy reasoning. We cannot absolve okada riders from occasional robberies, but to put the blame on them squarely for all robbery incidents in the state to warrant their ban is tantamount to giving a dog a bad name so it can be hanged. Are the so-called Keke NAPEP (tricycles) replacements and regular vehicles not used for the same? Shouldn’t we also ban them from Nigerian roads? The restriction on okada is not only a lazy approach to problem solving, but pedestrian, unjust, inhumane, callous and vicious. Taxis and buses are used for the famous “one chance”, why weren’t they banned? Militants and pirates use speed boats to bunker oil and attack ships on the high sea. Were they banned even at the height of the Niger Delta militancy? For years, Nigerian airlines have become flying coffins leading to the death of hundreds, not even the lives of prominent Nigerians were spared. Aircraft and air travel should have been banned! It becomes glaring whyokada riders are singled out for ban, throwing their families and dependants deeper into the abyss of privation. For such an anti-people move to be taken somewhat hastily without due consultation with stakeholders, to a large extent, is an indication that these state governors have lost touch with the common Nigerian.

Oshiomhole, seeking comfortable parallel to hinge his anti-people and unpopular restriction of bike riders, said it was now increasingly evident that many of the kidnappers in the state were okada riders. But, how an okadarider can successfully kidnap his target who is probably driving in an SUV or some fast-moving car beats my imagination.

The ban of okada was also premised on the loss of lives from accidents. I wish to ask the Federal Road Safety Corps and the Nigerian Police in these states, is okada the only cause of road accidents? Statistics have shown that accidents on the highways predominantly involve vehicles. How some state governors came to the conclusion that the panacea for the carnage on Nigerian roads is to ban okada but not cars – if we’re to go by simple logic — remains a mystery. If the state governors have failed in their responsibilities to fix the roads and reposition the relevant agencies to do their jobs on the highway, the source of livelihood of the okada operators should not be sacrificed.

Residents who live in remote locations will face untold hardship accessing major roads from their homes. To meet up with work and other engagements, they may decide to trek early in the day or late in the night and end up waylaid by thieves in unsafe areas. Will they not be worse off in the final analysis? It would have made more sense if the governors, Oshiomhole in particular, rehabilitated all roads in interior locations to ameliorate the hardship of residents before the ban.

But it is pathetic that at a time the nation is grappling with security challenges, exacerbated by unemployment, state governors have chosen to swell, with such gusto, the teeming population of jobless Nigerians, leaving them exposed to terrorism, kidnapping, oil bunkering, robbery and other social vices that have eluded government ‘ban’ for many years.

In densely populated Asian countries and some other parts of the world, motorcycles are proper and recognised means of transport. Their operations are regulated by the relevant traffic agencies. In most countries in Africa, motorcycles are used for transport.

On the contrary, it is corruption, dereliction and negligence of duty that need an urgent clampdown! We need better roads. There must be a concerted effort and synergy from the relevant law enforcement agents to reduce accidents on roads and protect lives and properties. Not okada ban.

Article Credit: Punch Newspaper

Updated 6 Years ago

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