By July 21, 2014, Kaduna state will mark exactly two months after okada operators were banned from major streets in the metropolis following a clamp down on their activities by the state government under the leadership of Governor of the state, Muktar Ramalan Yero. Muhammad Ibrahim, writes on how controversy is still trailing the development.
People in Kaduna state still remember what they called the good old days, when they would come out of their houses, get on commercial motorcycles and zoom off to the destinations of their choice. The situation is no longer so. Now, they have to trek long distances before they can get vehicles to take them to work or their businesses and their children to school, this is especially so for those who cannot get access to tricycles in their locations, provided by the state government or what is commonly called Keke Napep.
A clear example is the case of Mr Matias Alkali, who said it was as if his world came apart when okada riders were banned from the state because “We depended on the Okada commercial operators daily, to go to work, market, school and other places because most of us cannot afford to buy cars. It was the cheapest means of transportation for my family and relatives”, he lamented.
It would be recalled that the State House of Assembly in May, this year had approved the bill prohibiting their activities in the state with the governor signing the bill into law on 21st of same month, bringing to an end, okada business in the state.
The areas affected by the ban were Kaduna Metropolis, Zaria, Sabon Gari, Kafanchan, Birnin- Gwari, Lere and Giwa townships.
The ban became effective amidst complaints from residents of the state, especially from those residing in the communities affected.
The residents in such communities blamed the state government of being inconsiderate.
They lamented that the government should have provided palliatives such as enough tricycles to replace the motorbikes before the ban became effective.
They said such palliatives would no doubt reduce the hardship they faced as a result of the ban.
When the pressure on the state government became too much they tried to ease the people’s plights by distributing a total of 1000 tricycles to members of the Commercial Motorcycles Operators Union in the state under its Subsidy Reinvestment Programme SURE-P.
The government said the tricycles were provided as succour to the common man who suffered more as a result of the ban.
Investigation carried out by Peoples Daily in Kaduna revealed that almost two months after the development, mixed reactions have continued to trail the ban on activities of the commercial motorcycles operators because there are those who are still aggrieved by the government action, saying it was a false move.
To such people, okada riders are poor people who were just going about their normal businesses and looking for their daily bread but now they are out of jobs. In fact, there were people whose businesses solely depended on the okada riders’ patronage. Such businesses include vulcanises, spare parts sellers, food vendors etc.
Some residents are of the opinion that the roads in Kaduna are no longer a bee hive of activities with okada riders in all the nooks and crannies of the state.
However, in some quarters, people are still giving the government kudos for a well planned action, carried out to the letter. This category argues that the streets are now better and safer without the okada operators.
They argued that presently the emergency accident units set in some major hospitals purposely because of Okada operators, who, on daily basis got involved in accidents were virtually empty because the rate of accidents involving okada riders have drastically reduced in the state.
Motorists interviewed also expressed happiness with the ban because for them, the pollution. Congestion etc caused by okada riders in the state have reduced drastically.
Even the State Federal Road Safety Commission, Sector Commandant, Olumike Olagunju was quoted on BBC Hausa Service as saying, accidents and security of lives and property have improved since the ban on okada operators in the state.
Umar Ibrahim, a Corp member that resides along Kerawa Tudun Wada said, there is no doubt that the rate of accidents have reduced, crossing of roads in the metropolis has became easier, while commuters can now breathe clean air.
“The negative effect of the ban is that the tricycles that have now replaced Okada don’t ply the streets within the metropolis. They also charge per drop at high rates. Some businesses without the okada operators are suffering now, for example some restaurants, motorcycles spare parts sellers and vulcanizes because most of their customers were okada riders and now they are all gone” he said.
He therefore, advised the government to ensure that the registration numbers of tricycles are printed boldly at the back, similar to the style in Kano state for security reasons.
Haruna Suleiman, a civil Engineering Student of Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria, said the ban has directly affected the standard of living of the populace which has directly increased the high cost of living, unemployment, high dependency ratio and worsened the movement of goods and services. According to him, the state government didn’t perform SWAT analysis before going ahead with the ban, saying so far, the disadvantage of banning okada is almost twice the danger of not banning it.
“Right now as I speak to you many of these youths are idle and there is an adage that says an idle mind is the devil workshops. So this is directly telling you that crime rate within some part of Kaduna will be high.
“I am therefore pleading with the state government to still provide an alternative that will ease the pains of these youths as well as ease our pains as masses, which we encounter daily due to the ban of okada,” he said.
For Mr Auta from Kafanchan town in Jema’a local government Area of the state, he said he had spent about 15 years doing okada business.
“When the governor decided to ban the business we all felt disturbed but with the tricycle given to us, it showed that the governor means well for the masses. We thank him a lot for the tricycles given to us because if not for that I don’t know what I would have done” he said.
Abdul Nasir from Lere Local government area, said at first he was angry with the state governor for banning okada which was his source of income for catering for his family
“Now that I have been given a tricycle, I think the governor deserves commendation for the gesture because the happiness I felt reminded me of the day I got married,” he said.
Governor Dr Muktar Ramalan Yero, while reacting to the complaints of the people apologised to those who felt bad as a result of his administration’s decision to ban okada operators, saying it wasn’t the government’s intention to create hardship for the people.
“We are aware of all the complaints by the people when the decision was taken. We also knew there were people who applauded us and there were those who criticized us. For those who applauded us, we say thank you for your support. While for those who felt bad, we apologize for the hardship they suffered. It wasn’t intentional.
“As a people we must tell ourselves the truth, whatever happened I took responsibility for it as a leader. It is our responsibility to develop our state without waiting for outsiders to come and do it for us. I am very sure that those okada riders were into the business because they had no any other alternative for a better job” he said.
He further said the state government is also looking closely at the activities of tricycles operators in the state as he warned those who came from the neigbouring states to abide by the state’s laws by ensuring that they register their vehicles.
Presently there are influx of tricycles operators from states like Kano and Plateau, who are making brisk business in the state but residents and motorists have already began complaining about their reckless driving as they have called on government to monitor them closely.