On July 1, this year, the Anambra State Government enforced the ban on the use of motorcycles as a means of public transportation. Some of the reasons given for the ban included the reduction of crimes committed by motorcycle or Okada operators, as well as reduction in the rate of accidents involving those operators and their passengers.
The ban which affected the commercial city of Onitsha and the capital city of Awka, was received with mixed reactions. While some wondered if crimes were only committed by Okada riders to warrant them being the only victims of the ban, others called for an extension of the period of grace to allow the operators enough time to upgrade to shuttle buses or tricycles.
In banning the operations of Okada in Awka and Onitsha, the Anambra State Government, which refused to extend the period of grace, assured the Okada people that shuttle buses would be provided in order for those interested to have a smooth transition from Okada to shuttle buses or tricycles known as Keke.
Interested people were required to pay an initial deposit of one hundred thousand Naira, while making agreed monthly returns thereafter. This arrangement was aimed at helping those who could not raise the funds to buy the shuttle buses or Keke on their own.
A date was given for the arrival of those buses. However, four months after the ban, the shuttle buses are yet to be seen.
The non-arrival of the shuttle buses means that those who were stopped from doing business with their motorcycles and who have not been able to upgrade on their own to shuttle buses or Keke, have remained jobless, a development that has certainly come with its frustrations.
Not long ago, there was a news report of an Okada man who committed suicide out of frustration of being jobless. Perhaps he would have been alive today if things had been properly managed.
Now, given the benefit of hindsight, would it not have been appropriate for the government to delay the ban till it was sure of the procurement of the shuttle buses?
Indeed, in one of the editorials of this paper, we had suggested that government should wait till the arrival of the shuttle buses before carrying out the ban. This way, no one would be made to suffer. The government had however insisted on its deadline. But today, it is clear that government has miscalculated, thus bringing untold hardship to many of the banned Okada operators.
We are therefore calling on the Anambra State Government to expedite action in bringing in the shuttle buses to complement the number already available and to assist those who have been jobless to be gainfully employed once more.
No doubt, the government's intentions on banning the operators of Okada are noble but adequate preparations ought to have been made to avoid the present situation of things. Since it is not possible to unban the operations of commercial motorcylists, the only option is to make available the promised alternative which is the procurement of shuttle buses.