As Delta launches its 1,000 tuk-tuk scheme (Nigeria)

Gov Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State via Tribune

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Motorcycles are to give way soon to tricycles in Delta cities as government launches its 1,000 tuk tuk (commonly known as Keke NAPEP)  scheme. Alphonsus Agborh reports the different sides to this development.

THE stage is set for the Delta State government to launch its tricycles (Keke NAPEP) scheme as at least 1000 tricycles have been purchased, repainted into Delta colour of blue and white which its mass transit buses and taxis also wear.

The essence is to provide a more comfortable ride for commuters in Asaba and Warri which fall into the first phase of the scheme.

There are signals already sent to the public, nay the community of okada riders which have been discussing the development. Some are against it while others feel it is a policy that will not definitely put them out of job.

Throwing light on the tricycle operation, the State Commissioner for Transport, Hon. Benson Igbakpa, said the tricycle would ply designated routes in Asaba and Warri.

According to him, the rate of motorcycle accidents has remained high in recent times. To stem the tide, Igbakpa is of the view that there is the need to bring  decency into the transport sector especially in the urban centres where both okadas and taxis struggle to be on the major streets.

Okada operators in the two cities, the commissioner said, would relocate to other routes.

According to him, “For instance in Asaba you can imagine an okada rider operating along the busy Onitsha-Benin Highway in the town with all the risk. These okada will move to the rural areas or routes other than the designated ones.”

Igbakpa also mentioned the policy on riverine transportation as over 130 speed boats which have been purchased will soon be inaugurated.

The governor, Dr, Emmanuel Uduaghan, also lent his voice to the tricycle operation when he addressed journalists in Delta State capital recently. He was quick to add that tricycles could carry more passengers and offer more comfort. He therefore urged Deltans to be prepared for a new dawn.

However, both the government and the police who banned the operation of Okada in major cities after 7:00pm hinged their argument on the fact that criminals used this transport means to commit all manners of crime, especially robberies.

Even the public accepts this belief and call for the total scrapping of okada. In cities like Port Harcourt, Owerri, Lagos and others, it is no news that commercial motorbikes have been sent out of the city centres to the suburb.

It is on that strength that the Delta State government is now ready to do same to restore dignity of city centres and the Government Reservation Areas (GRA) where environmental agencies have at least cleaned up. Food vendors, recharge cards sellers, motor mechanics and other artisans have been sent out of the right of way of government major roads.

With the launching of the 1,000 tricycles, Asaba and Warri will no doubt wear a new look.

In Asaba, there are just a few roads where the tricycle can ply. They include the dreaded express way, Nnebisi connecting Okpannam road to  Okpannam, Government House (Summit) Rd, Ibusa Rd, Ezenie, Cable, DLA, Osadebey way and others. Efforts are being made to build lay by in   case of rain or other necessities.

Nevertheless, as many commuters welcome the new development in the transport sector, majority of okada operators sound indifferent. Some of them who spoke on it, believed it was another ploy to send them into the unemployment market.

“By the time the tricycle takes over the major routes, where can we go? There is hardly any movement one can make to the local routes in Asaba without making a detour to the designated routes,” Julius Okuchukwu, a motorcyclist, said.

Another, Raph Odozi, remarked: “Good intention, but I am sure government will allow us to operate alongside the tricycle on the major roads. The scheme will promote unemployment in  Asaba where over 5,000 people eke their living from okada riding.”

I am a graduate and for five years I had no job hence my parents managed to buy me this okada. Government needs to properly designate us so that we can exist.”

It will be recalled that a convention of okada riders and operators of tricycles was held in Asaba recently where their activities were analysed to enable them fashion out a new direction that would deal with the image of the operators in line with the social and political status of the federation.

Under the aegis of Motorcycle Transport Union of Nigeria (MTUN) and Autobike Owners’ Association of Nigeria (AOWAN), the two groups, took the centre stage and accused various state governments of banning the use of motorcycles in the cities.

Prominent speakers, including traditional rulers, astute businessmen and civil liberty organisations, amongst others refused to accept the excuse given by governments that okada riders are criminals.

They faulted the assumption that because motorcycles were being used to rob, it should therefore be banned.

Comrade Elvis Oliver Okolie, the National Public Relations Officer of MTUN/AOWAN gave their grievances thus, “It is also true that we have been seen, classified, assumed and tagged criminals and hoodlums, but that is not a truism because highest crime committed so far in the country were not committed with motorcycles or tricycles but with  vehicles.”

The PRO averred that “All over the world, anti-people laws are being abolished but the reverse is the case in Nigeria where atrocious and wicked laws are made   every day to abuse and violate the rights of our people and encourage executive lawlessness and impunity.”
For them, most robberies in the banks, public places were committed by persons who use

sports utility vehicles and other luxury cars, even as they argued that kidnapping were done using expensive vehicles yet they were not banned in the cities.

By and large, the Delta State policy is to encourage tricycles usage to bring dignity to commuters and save lives while at the same time, those okada riders that will be affected still have options to do their business on roads that are not too busy, where commuters live as well.

But one of the things that make the introduction of tricycles appealing to many deltans is that the cost of commuting will become cheaper since the Delta Tricycles would charge less fares compared to the high fares charged by the  few private tricycles and okada ope-rators.


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