By Jude Atupulazi
The recent ban of commercial cyclists in Awka and Onitsha is no longer news. It has long sunk into the inner recesses of everyone’s mind, even though that decision had received mixed reactions from the populace. Nevertheless, that ban is now on.
The problem presently lies in the impact that decision has made in the immediate society and the state at large.
The layout of Anambra State is such that the metropolis of her major towns is poorly structured.
Onitsha for instance, is where her major commercial hub is situated and one of the problems of this recent ban is that people have been finding it really tough moving around. Those areas where there are no accessible roads to the major roads were mostly plied by the banned Okada riders. However, since the ban, people have begun to trek long distances, especially in areas where there are no buses or shuttles plying.
The state government has said that their reason for the ban, among other things, borders on the high crime rate particularly attributed to the Okada riders. It is therefore expected that with this embargo placed on their activities, the rate of crime will be reduced in Onitsha, Awka and environs.
However, it is very important for government to note that a lot is expected of them in order to make their plan yield the expected dividends and this includes being able to provide the people with what they promised.
The government had promised to provide them with shuttle buses from Japan in replacement of the Okadas but that plan appears hastily made as the replacements are yet to arrive, thus causing some hardship on the populace.
It is clear that government fell short in this area as the ban should not have commenced until the arrival of the replacements.
This failure on government’s part has caused the people untold hardship and now they are faced with the ordeal of trekking long distances in very bad roads which are worse now that the rains have come.
Again, aside making life harder for the people, economic activities have been crippled. Many low income families are expected to face hard times since their bread winners have been thrown out of work, even if temporarily, as the proceeds they used to get from their Okada business will no more be forthcoming. Worse still, the upgrade they would have made in their mode of operation has not been made owing to the non-availability of the shuttle buses.
Those who operated their Okadas on hire purchase basis are now incapable of meeting their targets since they are not doing business.
As no one knows when the promised shuttles will arrive, perhaps government should have waited a bit more to enforce the ban.
It is our view that even if the shuttle buses were available, a period of grace should have been given before enforcing the ban. It is not too late yet to do this.
Lastly, government should look into reports that the loan promised the Okada operators is being manipulated. This follows reports that non-Anambra indigenes are refused such loans by some officials at the Anambra Small Business Agency, ASBA. Even if it is government’s policy, it should be reviewed as there are also Anambra people doing business in other states.
The services these people provide are for everybody; thus no one who truly belongs to the Okada Union and who fully meets with the requirements should be excluded.