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Friday, July 12, 2024

Danger Looms, As Tricyclists Still Ply Anambra Highways, Despite Govt’s Ban

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By Izunna Okafor, Awka

Section 96 of the National Road Traffic Regulations, 1997, states that “Auto-cycles, motorcycles under 50cc, invalid carriages, hand-pushed trucks, pedalcyclists and pedestrians with or without parambulators shall not be permitted on any expressway, except on trucks and paths which have been provided for such use, and may not cross any expressway except at designated locations.”

Likewise, Section 92 of the National Road Traffic Regulations, 2004, states that “Tricycles, motorcycles under 50cc, invalid carriage, hand pushed trucks, pedal cyclists and pedestrians with or without perambulators shall not be permitted on any expressway, except on trucks and paths which have been provided for such use, and may not cross any expressway except at designated location.”

The implementation of these regulations started in April 7, 1997 and January 12, 2004 respectively

In line with the above, the immediate-past Governor of Anambra State, Chief Willie Obiano, in 2015, barred tricycles (Keke Napep) and motorcycles from plying major highways in the state, including the Enugu—Onitsha Expressway, Arthur Eze Avenue and Zik’s Avenue in Awka.

Aside the above-cited stipulations, this restriction, which was announced through a statement signed by the then state’s Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism, Dr. Mrs. Uju Nwogu, was also necessitated by the incessant and recurring traffic crashes that usually happened on the highways then, most of which usually involved tricycles and motorcycles.

According to the statement, defaulters of this state-wide bar, which took effect from Monday, June 1, 2015, would have their motorcycles or tricycles impounded, while law enforcement agencies would also be on the roads to ensure full and strict compliance to the directive.

Howebeit, the statement also said that a fine of N5,000 (for motorcycles) or N10,000 (for tricycles) would be paid to retrieve such impounded motorcycles or tricycles (for first offenders); while subsequent arrest for a second time violation would attract outright confiscation of the motorcycle or tricycle by the state government.

Notwithstanding the necessity and seriousness of this bar and the associated punishments, it is unimaginable and a thing of regret that some defiant motorcyclists and tricyclists still operate on the highways, especially in Awka, the capital city of Anambra State.

Overtime, these defiant tricyclists have been sighted operating on these restricted highways, both in the day and the night hours, as if there was never a policy or restriction at all against that. Their defiance grew to the extent that they now have known loading parks along the said highways, as is seen today at UNIZIK Junction (UNIZIK Temp. Site) Awka and some other places in the state today.

The worse part of it all is that majority of these tricyclists now ply one-way, which is also against any known traffic rules in the country, thereby exposing pedestrians and other road users to a huge risk of road traffic crashes.

A good instance was the one that recently occured when one of the tricyclists brushed down a pedestrian in Awka, as he (the pedestrian) wanted to run-cross to the other side of the Enugu-Onitsha Expressway, watching out only for vehicles coming from his left side, while the tricyclist who was speeding to Aroma Junction brushed him from the other side, right opposite Mobil Filing Station, UNIZIK Junction.

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Moreover, ever since the Keke operators started flouting the rule date, no single security agency has been seen on the road to apprehend or sanction them, hence a very pertinent question on the seriousness, the place, and the action of the government and the relevant law enforcement agencies in the implementation of this well published bar and regulation; as well as the need and a call for more urgent action from the concerned authorities.

FRSC Reacts

When interviewed on the situation, the Sector Commander, Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC, Anambra State Command, CC Adeoye Irelewuyi, described such driving of the tricyclists as both dangerous and against the traffic rules, especially the National Road Traffic Regulations, which also restricts tricycles and motorcycles from plying highways.

He said: “I will agree with you on the dangers that are inherent in vehicles driving against the rules. Apart from the fact that it was a state government directive; even the National Road Traffic Regulation stipulates the category of vehicles that should ply the Express.

“So, even outside the fact that they have been outlawed in certain parts of the state, on this express cutting across the length of Anambra State it is forbidden for any vehicle below that capacity, according to the provisions of the Regulation, to ply the Expressway.”

Continuing, he said: “The issue is that many of our people often forget that the Expressway from Onitsha through Awka up to Enugu, is part of the East-West Road Network. And a lot of vehicles moving across the country normally pass through that Express, probably because many of it happen to fall within built-up areas .

“In Onitsha, for instance, the larger parts of that Expressway happen to be in built up area; and it is the same thing in Awka too. And you would discover that many of these vehicles we are talking about —the Keke, motorcycles, and so on —are also usually found within the built-up area.

“So, they tend to forget that is a major road and expressway; and they try to use it like any other road they ply. But that is very dangerous.”

On what the FRSC is doing to address the issue, restore normalcy on the roads and ensure strict enforcement of the restrictions, the FRSC helmsman, who also highlighted some of the numerous dangers associated with such driving, said they’re working with sister agencies to stop those dangerous practices.

He, however, disclosed that arresting the defaulters is most times very challenging to them because many of them are neither properly licenced nor have authentic number plates, which makes it difficult to identify or trace their vehicles.

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“We are working together with the state traffic agencies —the VIO, the ATMA and the other sister agencies, to ensure that such a dangerous practice is put to stop,” he said.

His word: “The major challenge we are having has to do with many of these motorcycles and Kekes not being properly licenced. What I mean by not being properly licenced is that they don’t carry the authentic number plates which they are expected to carry.

“So to make an arrest at times, it becomes difficult to identify who is who. But we are not relenting in our efforts; we are stamping out this dangerous and ugly practice. It endangers the lives of road users. It has cost people their lives and money, in terms of road traffic crashes. And we are determine that, within all our metropolis in Anambra state, we are going to get it stamped out.

CC Irelewuyi acknowledged that it would take some time to totally stamp out such practice because the tricyclists are already used to it. He, however, said they have already started working towards that, both through advocacy and enlightenment, as well as engaging the relevant bodies, such as Keke Union in the state, to help stop such a dangerous practice among their members.

He also assured that from the advocacy and engagement, they will go into full enforcement.

On the punishments awaiting the defaulters, he said such a person can be charged for Dangerous Driving, which, according to the Nation Road Traffic Regulation, attracts six months imprisonment with option of ₦15,000. He said the defaulter can also be charged for Route Violation, which, according to the FRSC Establishment Acts, attracts three months imprisonment, with option of ₦10,000 fine. He added that one can even be charged for both Dangerous Driving and Route Violation at once.

While emphasizing that the state’s FRSC Command will not relent in its primary duty of promoting safeness of the roads and safety of the road users in the state; he further advised pedestrians to always use the pedestrian bridges while crossing roads. This, according to him, is safer in the real sense of it, rather than risking their lives by run-crossing the highways while there is a pedestrian bridge, which government has spent huge amount of money to construct.

He also affirmed the readiness of his agency for the Easter duty; as well as their readiness to ease the recurring traffic jam at Abakaliki Street in Awka (which, though, he attributed to the impatience of drivers, size of the road, and the commercial-cum-ever-busy nature of the area especially during weekends), as well as some other places where there are usually snarl-up in different parts of the state.

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