Unrestrained speed and gross violation of traffic regulations are becoming rampant among commercial motorcycle riders in most parts of Nigeria, including the Federal Capital Territory, FCT.
Unemployment and the desire to eke a living must have compelled most motorcyclists, popularly called Okada riders, who are not licensed, to take to this job that was hitherto alien to the country.
However, commercial motorcycle is one of the major means of transportation especially in the cities, because of bad roads, that commercial vehicles would find difficult to ply.
The ability of Okada riders to ply bad roads and also move into remote areas put them in greater advantage to be the most patronised, though their activities constitute danger.
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Blessing Okezua, a civil servant, who narrated her experience with an Okada rider in Nyanya, a suburb of Abuja, said she lost her four teeth and was seriously wounded while riding on a commercial motorcycle.
According to her, on June 5, I boarded a motorcycle; on our way to the Nyanya bus terminal, another motorcycle was being chased by a security agent, a motorcycle tax officer, the motorcycle rider was on speed.
“As he wanted to make a U-turn, he lost control, hitting us and one other which caused us serious injuries,” she said.
Okezua who lost four of her teeth in the incidence, was in hospital for six days, where she was admitted.
Also, Tosin Abikoye was gruesomely murdered by a gang of Okada riders at FHA Lugbe in August, while returning from his office.
Mr Abikoye was driving in his Toyota car, when he had a head-on-collision with a commercial motorcyclist, who was carrying two passengers.
Mr Abikoye stepped down from his vehicle, and suggested that they should bear the loss each of them suffered.
Tosin Olowu, the chairman of Yoruba community in the area, where Abikoye and his family reside, said that the commercial motorcyclist refused, but instead beckoned on his colleagues to come.
“Abikoye drove off and the Okada riders in turn, mobilised and pursued him, and immediately he saw them from the rear view, he tried to take cover in a hotel.
“As soon as the Okada riders got wind of his hideout, they threatened the receptionist to show them the room where Abikoye was hiding, and broke through the wall, machete him, till he was unconscious,” he said.
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Olowu said Abikoye was left in the pool of his blood until a friend came to take him to Federal Staff Hospital, Jabi, but before they could reach the gate of the hospital, he gave up.
These and many more are the gory experiences of passengers in the hands of Okada riders, who do their business, without adhering to road safety regulations.
Bisi Kazeem, Corps Education Officer, Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC, Abuja, said that something was being done to check the menace of commercial motorcycle riders in the FCT.
According to him, from sensitisation, awareness campaigns and enforcement; every step is duly explored to achieve sanity on our roads.
He stated that there was an ongoing nationwide clampdown on motorcycles and tricycles operating without number plates which is the recognised means of identification.
Mr Kazeem said that the FRSC was also enforcing National Drivers’ Licence, NDL, violation, stressing that this was to ensure that all riders undergo driving school for proper training and acquire the NDL, as this will entrench a better driving culture.
He explained that it is now mandatory that all motorcycles and tricycles operate with plate numbers.
Mr Kazeem said that the enforcement started on Oct. 2, after several months of grace period to allow for adequate sensitisation and awareness.
According to him, on the first day of the clampdown, the Corps recorded over 1700 arrests and mandated the offenders to get their tricycles and motorcycles registered.
“The essence of this operation is to enhance the security of lives and property of road users.
“There have been series of reports of pervasive use of these categories of vehicles to perpetuate all manners of crime and the Corps has resolved to put an end to it through aggressive enforcement.
“This is to ensure that all tricycles and motorcycles have an identity, so that they can be easily traced in the event of any criminality.’’
Mr Kazeem noted that the clampdown was a work in progress, stating that the FRSC was resolute about achieving maximum compliance.
On the planned ban of commercial motorcycles in the FCT, he said there were area the Okada riders were not authorised to ply- the Central Area and major highways.
According to him, there are plans, but for now, we are taking it step by step, and one of these steps is to ensure that all riders are properly trained and licensed to do so, before they are issued the National Drivers’ Licence.
He stated that with this, all recalcitrant riders would be easily identified and punished, and reiterated the Corps’ commitment to creating a safer motoring environment.
He said that the Corps was optimistic that very soon, all road traffic rules in Nigeria would be duly complied with.
Mr Kazeem said that the commencement of enforcement of NDL for riders and number plates would help in sharpening the behavioural pattern of Okada riders
He said that where such ugly occurrences like killing and beating of passengers happened, the NDL and the number plate would help in identifying and arresting those involved.