The grave security situation in Nigeria arising from increasing acts of lawlessness, banditry, tribal and religious as well as communal skirmishes has place the safety of persons and property in a very precarious state forcing governments at different levels and even communities to adopt several strategies to combat insecurity.
In most Nigerian cities, especially state capitals and local government headquarters, the most common means of transportation before now has been the use of motorcycles for the movement of persons and even goods. This mode of transportation has come to be known and called different names in different communities. In some, it is “okada”, “achaba” and “going”. It is thus a matter of where one is and what name is popular in the place he finds him or herself.
The introduction of motorcycles in the transport business in Nigeria has been described by many as a blessing as it affords youth ready employment opportunities and thus getting them occupied with useful ventures and reducing crimes. For others, it is the quickest means of transport due to the advantage it has in reaching very difficult and hard to reach areas as a result of the of the bad road networks in our cities and rural areas. The ability of motorcycles to meander in between vehicles in spite of their being prone to accidents is often not a deterrent to passengers.
Lafia, the Nasarawa State capital as well as all other local government headquarters have “going” (or commercial cyclists) as their major means of transportation. The sacking of “okada” riders from Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory has made the adjoining settlements of Nyanya, Mararaba, Masaka, Karu and many others hosts for those thrown out from the high brow city. No wonder that these settlements are a haven for different peoples and crimes. Every day for motorcycle riders signal another struggle to eke a living for themselves and their families. This happens to be all comers job so long as one has the resources to procure a motorcycle even in the absence of the requisite qualifications and documents to warrant mounting the streets.
The days for using motorcycles can only become history if and when good roads exist for the use of cars and buses to ply the streets on commercial basis. This seems to be the situation that Lafia and other towns in Nasarawa State will experience in the near future if the roads under construction are completed. Such means of transport can only reach areas that are motor able. An experiment in using town service taxi cabs in Lafia suffered in the past as there were virtually no roads to be plied. These vehicles could only ply College of Agriculture and Shabu axis and due to the few passengers along the route, the exercise died a natural death.
The light at the end of the tunnel is getting closer and brighter with the government’s road construction with good drainages in the state capital and local government headquarters. As he gets closer to marking the first one year in office, he has taken delivery of one hundred pieces of tricycles popularly called Keke NAPEP. The news is that he will soon release them to youths as a means of empowerment with a view to giving them a means of livelihood as well as improve intra city transportation in the state. This will definitely be a boost to the economy of the state as it will improve the revenue base.
The introduction of Keke NAPEP, also called KEKE TA’AL will herald a new era in transport business in the state. This will afford citizens of a safer means of transport and also remove the insecurity tag that motorcycles have come to be identified with. A chain of job opportunities will also open up for mechanics that will engage in their maintenance. This era will drastically reduce the vehicular movements that have become a dangerous phenomenon and bring more comfort for passengers who are often faced with untrained motorcyclists who endanger their lives through reckless rides.
With the rainy season here, the sights of civil servants and other passengers falling off from motorcycles as a result of slips will be greatly reduced. We are also looking forward to have persons arrive at their destinations as clean as they left their homes as opposed to the past experiences where dirt are splashed on passengers during rides on motorcycles. Better still is the comfort that passengers will have from being protected from rain drops by these covered tricycles.
One note of warning to be sounded here is the need for operators of the tricycles to exhibit high discipline. A situation where they adopt the rancorous mode of operation akin to “going” operators will be a sad commentary. We expect a disciplined crop of youths that will be engaged in manning these tricycles with a view to ensuring that they are properly maintained and yield the revenues that will buy new ones for others to benefit.
Gradually, motorists in Lafia are getting used to traffic lights in the control of vehicles on the roads. When these tricycles come into operation, it is expected that patience and discipline will be at play with law enforcement agents doing their part of the job. Impatience has been the greatest bane and major factor responsible for the multiple but avoidable accidents on Nigerian roads. The success of this tricycle experience will spur private investors to introduce taxis cabs and buses as a means of reaching different parts of our townships. We all are stakeholders in the business of making the roads safer and improving our welfare.
Attah wrote from Lafia