I was in Owo town penultimate week for a burial ceremony and needed to use public transport, in Taxi cabservices were widespread in the city which I patronized to commute within the city in the 1990s. To my utter dismay, I learnt that taxis have become scarce and not easily available in the city any more. I was equally made to understand that if I desire to quickly reach my destination, I need to hire the common and readily available commercial motorcycle popularly known as Okada. This development upset me because I detest riding Okada on highways and the realization that taxi, a good means of intra city travel that was the main means of moving around the city some few years back have been relegated for the dreaded Okada with it myriads of problemsto take over the city’s transport.
As I bemoan this retrogressive development I recollected the similar situation in Idanre, a city that had the priviledge of having thriving and flourishing bus and taxi services in the early 1970s but have lost it to the invasion of commercial motorcyclists. Of course, the unpalatable scenario is not limited to these two cities but a common feature of most cities in Ondo state and the entire Nigerian cities. It was a sad development that taxis and mini buses that provided intra city transport in most cities in Nigeria in the 1970 till early 2000s are longer available but in its stead commercial motorcycles are the chief mode of traversing the cities. Indeed, since I found it distasteful to ride Okada on an expressway because of the associated danger especially that of accidents, I bemoaned the consequences of permitting Okada to take over city transportation in the country. It is not that them is entirely bad to use it especially in poorly accessible areas but to completely eliminate taxis service that is more convenient is clearly unacceptable and a development that must be reversed and corrected to secure the safety and welfare of city dwellers. Its proliferation and total reliance on Okada particularly among the youths is what is giving me serious concern due to the dangers and consequences of being prone to incessant accidents. This makes the need to look at their activities imperative during the ember months when accidents frequently occur in the cities by commercial motorcycle operators.
In addition, we are doing this against the background of the information rolled out by FRSC on accidents’ occurrence and fatalities that are usually higher during the dreaded ember months in the cities caused by Okada.
Indeed, the Okada business seem to be taking over city transport in the country because of a number of factors that include poor conditions of the roads and very poor access to several parts of the cities. In many cities in Nigeria, it is a known fact that they lack. Escalation in the cost of procuring motor vehicles that has made their number dwindling in recent years in the city is another factor. It is becoming increasingly difficult and or impossible for commercial vehicle operators to acquire new vehicle to be used as taxis while the fairly used imported vehicles that have been assisting in the past have gone out of the reach of commercial vehicles operators. This has encouraged more people to abandon taxi business for Okada business that is cheaper and easier to operate.
The incursion of motorcycles into the city transportation system that began in the early 1990s was as a result of the failure of government to develop the transport system. The transport system was then dominated by rickety vehicles that could not cope with the transport need of the people of the country especially in the rural areas where road conditions were terribly bad and, in some cases, lacked motorable roads altogether. This was exacerbated by the deplorable condition of roads in the cities as well as the inability of governments to provide good roads in emerging areas of the cities and escalating unemployment among the youths as well as the lure of making easy and quick money by the youths provided the added impetus for commercial motorcycles operators to take over public transport service in the country. It should be noted that a number of efforts were made to improve city transport such as introduction of other transport means such as light train and mass transport facilities but failed to improve the situation except Lagos where mass transit including light train are in operation. In most other cities in the country they have not improve the situation.
Of course, since the emergence of commercial motorcycles operations in the country, it has come with a number of problems that included incessant accidents with its damaging consequences. It has become a veritable means of escape by criminal elements in the country. Many heinous crimes have been alleged to have been carried out by criminals in the country including bandits and other high profile irredentists’ groups terrorising Nigerians. In an effort to address the spate of insecurity in Nigeria, the Federal Government came up with a proposal to outlaw the use of motorcycles for commercial purposes in the country. This has not seen the light of the day. However, some state governments have banned the use of motorcycles for commercial purposes in their states. In Ondo State, the government of Dr Olusegun Mimiko restricted Okada services to some sections of Akure to reduce their menace. Unfortunately, they failed to comply and have become a serious concern as being experienced Alagbaka close toSt Jacob’s Hotel and other areas where their incursion are threats to public security and order.
In the case of Alagbaka, they often block the road, causing delay and sometimes accidents and openly engaging in vices such as smoking and drinking. The reality was that the invasion of our cities by Okada posses more dangers to the people and the entire cityscape. Beside the danger of accidents with serious consequences including death, it has promoted crimes and criminalities in the cities, serious pollution and other crises including destroying the cities ambient environment. Although as written some months back, they were products of necessities because of the inability of the government to develop public transit facilities including mass transit, the Okada business was introduced to fill the hiatus, a temporary measure soon become a permanent feature of the cities. The invasion of the cities by Okada has become problematic, unsuitable and should not be allowed to become the permanent means of public transport In Nigerian cities. This is because they create more havoc than benefits to society. It has deny the society men and women that should engage in trades, farming and other businesses that promote development. Okada business is a very difficult one to organize and in society that manufactured them they are not being used for commercial purposes. Why should Nigeria permit such a dangerous vocation in her society.
To address the cankerworm, there is the urgent need to educate and discourage the trade with the ultimate aim of banning it in our cities. There is the need to reorganize and plan city transportation system in Nigeria. A situation that individuals and governments operate anyhow without plans for the future is not good. Emphasis should be placed on providing mass transit facilities that can carry more people at a time. Unemployment that forced many youths into the dangerous business should be addressed to discourage and deter them engaging in Okada business should be given desired priority attention. A situation where tertiary institution graduates become Okada riders is not good enough for the futures of the country and it must be reversed and changed.