By Our Editors
Motorcycles as taxis, notoriously known as okada, when they were introduced, brought some relief to the chaotic transportation system because of their ability to manoeuvre through the traffic. Some refer to them as aggressive machines owing to the fact that they can navigate terrains where cars cannot. This, probably, is the reason why lots of people who are in a hurry patronised and still patronise them.
However, over time, they became a menace to other road users to the point that government, in states and local governments, in response to public outcry, restricted their operations to certain areas. Yet, that did not contain their nuisance value. As useful as they were supposed to be, they began to cause accidents at unacceptable levels which have sent many to their early graves and be weapons of anti-social behaviour in the hands of the riders.
Part of the reason for the riders’ recklessness is that most of them were neither trained nor licenced to operate a machine that is to be used to convey people. With little or no training, they began to constitute fatal risks to themselves and the society as they are prone to accidents.
Motorcycle accidents occur on regular basis in a manner that leaves everyone including the government in a dilemma. Caught in the middle of trying to solve the problem of unemployment among the youth and ensuring that public safety is maintained, they look on helplessly as that effort is randomly abused.
Okada riders have become a law unto themselves. Often high on psychotropic substances, they throw caution to the winds as they ignore traffic rules which, in most cases, they don’t even understand.
The worrisome aspect of their undesirability as a mode of transportation is that without proper registration or licencing, when accidents occur involving them, there is nothing to hold on to by the other party who is, curiously, assumed to be the guilty party. And in no time, other riders converge to seek vengeance in mob-like fashion. For most road users, the fear of an okada rider is the beginning of wisdom, as they are avoided like plague.
This newspaper notes that when the government decided to introduce motorcycles as taxis, it was with the best of intentions. It was to ease the challenges people experience in trying to access their destinations when cars began to pick and choose where they can and cannot go to.
Furthermore, the authorities allowed it because it became a means of empowering the youths exposed to unemployment. Even for employed people, it was an alternative source of income that was exploited after regular hours. In the beginning, it was a lucrative venture that investors took advantage of. In all fairness, it created jobs in good numbers. Even more than that, because most of the parts were imported completely knocked down, some element of technology was transferred as many acquired the skilled of assembling and repairing the machines.
But like everything Nigerian, there was no effort on the part of the same government to regulate its operations as a means of transportation. In no time, it became an all-comers’ affair. Because of the short term gains, not- too- sufficient attention was paid to the necessity of ensuring that only those legally qualified to operate the machine were allowed to do so. The potential danger in doing otherwise was lost in the maze of short term solution to what was seen as addressing youth unemployment.
Soon, it became obvious that the gains were not worth the risks involved in allowing mostly street urchins into the business. The criminal minded among them began to use it for their nefarious activities especially at night. In the process, unwary passengers were exposed to personal risks as they were robbed of their belongings and, in extreme cases, killed.
Even kidnappers and armed robbers see motorcycles as easy get away transport system. This unfortunate development has persisted. In our opinion, there is an angle to this problem that has given it a stamp of legality. Politicians have adopted the use of it as poverty alleviation items overlooking the dark side of it that most find utterly disagreeable.
This newspaper is of the view that the sooner the activities of okada riders were checked the better. We are also of the opinion that every okada rider must be tested to ascertain their mental health while proper documentation should be carried out in order to curtail their excesses.
Just as it is done in the case of motorists, every okada rider must have a proper means of identification while there should also be a data base of their details. In monitoring their activities, the rate of accidents as well as crimes can be reduced to the barest minimum.