Those who remember when they held sway in Plateau State are quick to point to certain similarities of the operations in most states. They deliberately make sure they behave in the most abnormal ways breaking all known rules of traffic; while operating as lords above the authority.

That must have informed the decision by the Jonah David Jang administration to ban their operations in the state (Jos and Bukuru) metropolis on. While some of them moved out to some local government headquarters others deliberately chose to remain, insisting there is no law that would send them out of business. And since then, it has been open confrontation by them against the law.

It was as a result of the ban that the tricycle was introduced. The operators in this case have not helped matters either. What do you expect? Most of the drivers were okada riders; they imported their driving mannerism into the new form of transportation. It is therefore difficult to beat a retreat and expect to make a choice of which should be wise to use.

To be fair, the state failed to take a cue of where we made a false start. We have maintained right from beginning that had the state made efforts to designate routes for each, it would be difficult to have the chaotic manner they operate in the state capital. Difficult as it looks, we would have been saved had we but impressed on all of them a sense of order.

We are paying for the lack of planning today in the administration of the group. Of course, this is happening as a result of the dearth of cabs in the city. Recall that some years ago; the state government insisted all cabs must bear a particular colour that has been in use for ages. There were uproars, but the government stood its grounds.

While they kicked against the law, the government stood its ground, and before long, every street had their presence. It took a while before they disappeared; and then such services were then rendered by all manners of improvised means of transportation without regulation. These days, one hardly knows which car is a cab, as even official vehicles have indeed joined the fray and are being used just so for the driver to be able to get home with some bread for the family.

Many say the times are indeed hard for most Nigerians who own cars. They are not wrong; the truth is some are barely surviving; therefore any opportunity is used to stay afloat. But the point being made is had we but planned the efforts of the state House of Assembly would have made meaning as other implications of their non-adherence to the ban is today hunting the peace and creating hiccups in addressing the issue head-on.

Several states have succeeded in implementing similar laws in their domains. The story of the journey of the ban on the use of commercial motorcycles (Okada) within the Jos metropolis started June 12, 2012 after the Plateau State Government and security agencies announced in a joint press briefing in Jos. It was a thug of war but start it must as several things were observed as having gone wrong with their operations.

Despite heated debates, many may recall that the announcement came against a decision by the Amalgamated Commercial Motorcycle Owners and Riders Association of Nigeria (ACOMRAN) not to advise its members to obey the ban. The then Commissioner for Information and Communication, Abraham Yiljap during the press briefing which was held at the Police Command Headquarters, Jos insisted but rightly that it was for the good of the state and its people.

The owners of the okada saw the move by the state as one targeted at whittling down the economic power of the people involved. But what is the power of a group if they are not in tune with the desire of the state? That desire is to have a people organized to pursue their business legitimately without molestation.

The Jos Greater Master Plan, the government insisted was being destroyed in various forms and therefore, it was wise for government to protect it. It must be stated that all governments have a responsibility for the lives and properties of its citizens. No particular group should be left to dictate to government what is right.

That is what the okada riders were insisting on doing: Tell government, it was there on account of their votes, allow us to carry out businesses as it pleases us. On account of this, it will be dangerous to give it. Therefore, when the ban was enforced, their sympathizers and the group couldn’t take it.

There were several untoward activities which had their imprimatur; and as dangerous as they were, government couldn’t just wait until they may have taken over the state before acting. By the time that it acted, several anomalies had taken place; and it needed the intervention of government and the security agencies.

Sadly however, despite the law banning their activities, it was difficult for some of them to relocate to towns and places where they could be allowed free hand to operate; and which the law couldn’t catch up with them. Those of them who did may be in other towns plying their trade, the recalcitrant amongst the number are in some streets playing: Come and catch us if you can to the security.

There have been open confrontations with the people as well as the security over time. Indeed, some of the confrontations were by all standards meant to show that the state didn’t like the business and were gradually being asked to leave the state. What better description can this be, other than to classify them as an unserious group desirous of raising dust and causing confusion?

Unfortunately too, and they know, some of them were on record to be criminally minded as they were being used for some ulterior motives. A state which has faced a number of violent crises would ensure that all is done to stem the tide.

However, it is on record that since 2012, some of the operators have remained stubborn to a fault. The introduction of the tricycle has not helped matters, as most of the operators may have graduated from using okada to this form of transportation. This is topic for another day, and soon we shall return to it for the purpose of saving the state.

It is as a result of their stubborn nomenclature that recently the state House of Assembly called for full enforcement of the law banning the operation of commercial motorcyclists, popularly called Okada in Jos, the state capital.

Hon. Daniel Nanbol, member representing Lantang North Central, in a motion expressed concern over the non-compliance to the law by motorcyclists. Despite the fact that there was a law banning the operation of motorcycles in Jos, even the tricycles have designated areas within which to operate. Indeed, it must be stated the free operation of cyclists constituted a security threat to the citizens.

The unchecked operations of Okada and Keke riders in the state without doubt constituted a security threat to the residents, as “It is not safe to board even tricycles in some areas, it will be good for the law enforcement agents to do their job”. Make no mistake: If nothing was done, Jos would soon be playing host to cyclists sacked from Lagos, Sokoto or Kaduna States.

The concerns of the House are noticeable in the face of the high level of insecurity stemming from the unchecked operations of Okada and Keke riders in the state. The laws made by the House must be adhered to. If they are not implemented, it is high time they called on those who fail to enforce this implementation to come before the House and explain to the world reason for their failure.

The state has a responsibility as the security agencies to help curb this menace. The ban is still in force, the operators are well known on the various streets and corners that they are still being observed making money and causing pains to the state.

The high level insecurity stemming particularly from activities of such groups is worrisome. If anything, the urgent need for security to step up their efforts in enforcing the law for the good of all is by far what is needed. There is no state that its people cannot adhere to laws meant to guide their conduct.

It is only when that is done that the state government can provide alternative jobs for the teeming youths who are into the genuine business of okada and commercial tricycle operations.

Categories: Column

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