On Sunday, November 19, a ghastly accident occurred in front of the offices of the Anambra Broadcasting Service, ABS, along the Enugu/Onitsha Expressway. It involved a Sport Utility Vehicle, SUV, and a commercial motorcyclist (popularly known as okada) and his female passenger. According to eyewitness reports, the okada rider was driving against the traffic when he was knocked down by the SUV. Immediately this happened, an oncoming truck went over the okada driver and his passenger who were lying on the road, killing them instantly.
Less than two months, previously, a similar accident had been recorded almost at the same place. It also involved a commercial motorcyclist and a female passenger. They were knocked down by a car as both of them tried to take the bend leading to Roban Stores. This time, however, no life was lost, but the female passenger broke a leg.
Similar accidents involving okada riders on expressways have been occurring all over the state. But the intriguing thing is that this has been happening despite an existing ban on okada riders against using the expressways in the state. Every day, these okada drivers are seen often struggling for right of way with cars, lorries and trailers on roads the okada riders ought not to be using in the first place.
When Fides sought the clarification of the Anambra State Government on whether or not the ban was still in place, the Commissioner for Transport, Hon Chinwe Nwaebili, confirmed that the ban was still in force. She expressed concern that okada riders had continued to defy the ban, even as she assured that fresh moves would be initiated to deal with the situation.
The sector commandant of the Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, Sunday Ajayi, while commenting on the recalcitrance of the okada riders, blamed it on attitude, pointing that it was the wrong attitude that would make people take risks on the highways.
We at Fides are also worried at the foolish risks taken by both okada riders and their passengers by defying the ban and continuing to use the expressways. We believe the larger blame should even go to the passengers because if they insist on the okada riders taking inner routes, they will be on the highways. These accidents are avoidable if all the parties adhere to the ban.
We are therefore calling on the concerned government agencies to redouble efforts towards not just enforcing the ban, but in meting out adequate punishment to defaulters. It is either they impose very high fines on defaulters, or they impound the motorcycles and auction them off. The passengers should also be fined.
We believe that if stringent measures such as these are put in place, the menace of okada riders on our expressways will be greatly reduced, if not eradicated.