The commercial motorcycle popularly known as Okada was recently banned by some state governors and underprivileged and depressed the livelihood of some truthful and dependable Nigerians across the country who could not secure white collar jobs in the formal sector of the economy. Okada was borrowed from the defunct Nigerian local airline. The commercial motorcycle is strictly hired to convey people to their different destinations especially cities of Nigeria that has huge traffic gridlock. Commercial motorcycles are mainly used in West African countries including Togo , Benin republic, Burkina Faso, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Okadas appeared in the late 1980s during an economic downturn in Nigeria. Jobless youths began to use motorcycles to earn money by transporting passengers on narrow or poorly maintained roads to far away cities and villages. This type of transportation quickly became popular and acceptance of it has increased steadily. Okadas are now one of the primary modes of transportation in Nigeria and comprise a cheap and adaptable transportation system, the most popular informal one in the country by far. Even in remote villages they arrive at regular intervals. It has become a means of transportation regularly used by the young and the old, and men and women. Unfortunately the rise in Okada usage has been accompanied by increased occurrences of risky driving and accidents on Nigerian roads, as a result, Okadas have come under heavy criticism, resulting in legislation intended to restrict or prohibit their operation in some Nigerian cities.
To some extent, Okadas have adequately assisted the jobless graduates, semi-illiterates and others to have constant source of income. Though Okadas have constituted nuisance in the country in terms of criminal activities and resulting effects of accident victims of Okadas. The fact remains that Okada has created jobs for many distressed Nigerians whose hopes were dashed out in the thin air. The cost of purchasing one Okada goes between #85 000 to #95 000 depends on the model of the motorcycle in the market. While some Nigerians use Okada as alternative businesses through hire purchase either weekly or monthly delivering of money to the owner by the Okada operator. Though some state governors intend to introduce tricycle as alternative to Okada while the cost of purchasing tricycle goes between #350,000 to #400,000 and union registration goes for #30,000, depends on its state operation likewise Okada too. There are places tricycle cannot go but Okada can equally finish the journey of the suffering passenger. The ban placed on Okada riders by some Nigerian state governors could be traced to infamous use of Okadas by some unscrupulous and notorious elements to rob innocent people of their goods and nothing else. Even street Okada riding has negatively created dubious means of snatching by passers bags and phones on daily basis. The increasing wave of crime in major cities of Nigeria could be traced to these Okada riders. Although there are black sheep Okada riders who decide to use it for criminal activities and nothing else.
For Lagos State Government under the Ministry of Transportation to ban Okada riders from plying Federal and State roads indicated the increasing heinous activities being created by some Okada riders who are not faithful to the profession. Okada riding has helped many Nigerians to keep hope alive in all levels since our government cannot provide necessary social amenities including the public-private initiative too. It is not only in Lagos state that Okada riding is banned but other states like Rivers, Delta, Enugu and just mention but a few. Some of these Okada riders get more money from distance journey than street riding of Okada. Even the cost of transport fare has increased in some states while commuters and passengers are stranded in most premeditated bus stations in Nigeria. Traffic hold ups are the order of the day in the major cities of Nigeria since the ban of Okada riding. It is sad that most state governors never consider its implications while passengers bear the brunt of such tyrannical and oppressive decisions. Too many laws placed on Okada riders in some states of the federation have prompted the incident of armed robbery, pickpockets and social vices in the country. The three types of Okada riders in Nigeria not known by the government are those who could not secure white collar jobs after graduation, those that were retired abruptly from both government and private organizations without benefits and those who could secure jobs because of their lower qualifications and not connected to the higher powers of the land. Parts of Boko Haram uprising and other social vices are traced to timidity of jobs among the Northern youths. It is not the making of anybody to venture into Okada riding but because of the bad state of leadership and economy over the years. The military regimes constituted to the Okada riding in Nigeria. Since our railway system is dilapidated while our roads are unmotorable, water transportation is no longer in vogue which rural dwellers, especially those in the riverside areas are usages of the system and air transportation is only meant for the rich people. Some village dwellers prefer to use bicycles for unconventional transportation to their various destinations.
Again, the unbendable ban of Okada riders in some states have compelled the Nigeria police and other uniformed men to arrest Okada riders without no cause even when some states set up special task force to apprehend illegal Okada riders on the high ways. Nigeria has fearsome association of Okada riders that can voice out their stakes with the government in power without misgivings. Though the outright ban of Okada riders in Nigeria is not the best. Not long ago when the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) introduced the use of helmets for commercial motorcyclists yet the law was not effected while the Nigeria police saw it as opportunity to make brisk money from Okada victims.
Finally, If Okada riders should be totally banned from operation then, alternative means of transportation should be provided by these so-called state governors while State Assemblies and federal legislature must make up from the shattered economy that prompted the Okada riding in Nigeria while the judiciary must not be left out in terms of prosecution of Okada criminal elements.
BY GODDAY ODIDI. , Public Affairs Analyst . 08058124798.07086603306, 20 oro street Ajegunle Apapa Lagos.