. . . Promised Shuttles Buses Yet to Land
By Ikeugonna Eleke
In May last year, Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State, announced his government's decision to ban the operations of commercial motorcyclists, otherwise known as Okada in parts of the state, notably Awka and Onitsha . The ban, according to the government, was to take effect from 1st July, 2018.
They gave details of the areas affected by the ban to include Awka and all the surrounding towns, as well as Onitsha and all surrounding towns.
The announcement was criticized by many, who feared it would bring untold hardship upon citizens of the state.
However, government announced that to cushion the effects of the hardship the ban would bring upon residents, the government had set aside N765m for commercial motorcyclists in the state to assist them in purchasing shuttle buses.
The government which said the funds would be accessed through the Anambra State Small Business Agency (ASBA), assured that registered commercial motorcyclists would take delivery of the buses once they deposited N100, 000 with ASBA, as well as an undertaking to make payments every two weeks.
The Anambra State Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, Mr C. Don Adinuba, who disclosed this in a press statement, said the interest-free loan could be repaid within a year and a half.
Said he: 'The shuttle buses will cost between N700, 000 and N800, 000 each. The first set of 200 units of the 1,000 buses in the scheme will arrive in the state anytime from now, from Japan.'
Obiano had earlier given reasons for the ban to include his decision to economically empower the operators and quicken the process of turning the state into a modern place like Dubai.
Adinuba who also expatiated on it said, 'A situation where some members of the public have been made to believe that they cannot rise beyond the level of Okada riders is unfair and offends good conscience.
'Governor Obiano wants commercial motorcyclists to get to the next level by becoming bus owners. Bus ownership will generate far more revenues for the present Okada riders because whereas a motorcyclist is not allowed to have more than one passenger at a time, a shuttle bus can carry as many as seven passengers.'
Other reasons adduced for the ban on the operations of Okada riders had included; rise in Okada related accidents and rise in activities of the criminal elements believed to be operating on motorcycles.
According to the government, up to 70 per cent of accident cases in Orthopedic and other hospitals in Anambra State and beyond involved commercial motorcycles. It argued that it was not right for any government which cared for the welfare and future of its citizens not to do anything about this phenomenon, considering that the safety of every individual remained the primary constitutional responsibility of the state.
'Many robberies and other violent crimes throughout Nigeria have been traced to people using commercial motorcycles. We do not want anything which can compromise our hard earned reputation as Nigeria's safest state,' government had said.
Some groups who had protested that over 30,000 people risked losing their means of livelihood as a rest of the ban, had been pacified by the promise of the state governor.
In what was seen as a move to keep to his words, Obiano had shortly before the date of the enforcement of the ban, traveled to the United States of America, and many believed that upon his return, or shortly after, some shuttle buses would be delivered to him for onward transmission to displaced Okada riders for usage, and to ease movement in the state.
However, seven months after the ban, most Anambra residents have continued to wonder what is stopping the government from fulfilling its promise, just as displaced Okada riders have continued to suffer.
Means transportation has also posed a greater challenge to residents of the affected areas as the few available tricycles and shuttle buses only ply designated routes.
Fides spoke to keke riders who also affirmed that they were still waiting for Obiano to fulfill his promise of providing the shuttle buses to them.
A keke rider, Mr Fidelis Ngwu, who hails from Enugu State told Fides that he was among the first people that went to register at ASBA for the shuttle buses, but when they told him to provide N100, 000, he could not.
'it's not as if I cannot look for somewhere to borrow, but we went to the place and did not see any buses, and I am sure if I had paid, the bus would still not have been delivered to me up till now.
'This keke I am using now is better for me, instead of staying idle. The keke was given to me at N700, 000. The real cost is about N450, 000 or so, but we even heard that the shuttle buses that government wants to give to us will be above N1million. So instead of them to buy and sell to us at a lower rate, they want to make gain from it. Shuttle buses in Awka here are not up to N1million, so why will government sell to us at such a high price,' he queried.
Another keke operator, who claimed to be the leader of keke operators at Aroma Junction, but refused to disclose her name described government's promise as deceitful.
'As I speak to you this moment, not even one person has been given a keke or shuttle bus by the government, except if it will still happen. We are not even hoping on them; we are doing our hustle by ourselves. Let them only help us by curtailing the tax they collect from us. As for the promise of shuttle buses, we have already forgotten it,' he said.
The commissioner for Transport, Hon Uchenna Okafor, however could not react to the allegation that the promise by the governor was mere deceit.
All attempts to reach Okafor, including calls and text messages sent to his phone, as well as visits to his office were not answered.
Also attempts to contact the man in charge of ASBA, Mr Clement Nwankwo, proved abortive as he could not respond.