-Checking the Menace of Commercial Tricycle Operation in Abuja
YBTC NEWS-It came like a bolt out of the blue and caught virtually all residents of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) unawares.
Yes the issue at stake is the decision of the FCT administration to confine commercial tricycle operators (also known as Keke) to certain parts of the city and restrain them from the highways and the City Centre which many initially misinterpreted as an outright ban from operation.
Surprisingly not many people realised that the decision was not based on a fresh regulation as according to the chairman of the Ministerial Task Team on Free Flow of Traffic Comrade Ikharo Attah, the move was in line with the Transportation Master Plan of the FCT, which stipulates that the operations of all means of transportation must be regulated and controlled.
For the avoidance of doubt, this is the same policy that former FCT Minister Malam Nasir el-Rufai relied on when he barred commercial motorcyclists from the highways and the Federal Capital City in 2005. Incidentally, that decision also elicited public outrage but el-Rufai was spared the type of social media attention that has come the way of the incumbent minister Malam Musa Bello for daring to be different.
The immediate reaction to the enforcement was clearly a throwback to the el-Rufai years and at the forefront of the attack is the Tricycle Owners Association of Nigeria (TOAN) whose leadership swiftly held a press conference addressed by its National President, Augustine Apeh.
He was quoted, in the media, as describing the move as ‘most unfair, inhuman and the refusal of the government to take the worsening unemployment and crime rates in the country into consideration.’
Apeh further said: “the FCT administration is only bent on depriving Nigerians who use the tricycle as a means to meet their daily means of livelihood. This business feeds over 40 million people including mechanics, dealers and other artisans.” The problem is that the entire population of the FCT is not even 10 million but here we have someone plucking figures from the air to paint government bad!
This was part of the over-exaggeration and disinformation meant to trigger public outrage and it was not really surprising to hear viewer comments on radio shows and on social media.
It was however good to hear the head of FCT call centre Hajia Jumai Ahmadu on radio, the day after enforcement began, explaining the rationale for a move that was clearly unpopular among residents of the nation’s capital judging from reactions from callers into the show.
The leader of the enforcement team Comrade Attah has also not been quiet and like Hajia Ahmadu, he has not stopped telling anyone who cares to listen that there is no blanket ban on commercial tricycle operations, contrary to the story that went viral in the media.
Now let’s take a look at some of the immediate reactions as gathered by DAILY POST from Twitter:
@omogbajabiamila:” Ok, looks like the restriction on keke has now gone a notch higher in Abuja. No more kekes and as a result, people are trekking inside this hot sun.. mad ooo.”
@Umehwrites:”No keke in Abuja, bolt and uber drivers in certain locations are having a good day making money.”
@Realquinbee:” FCT Minister stops keke napep from operating in Abuja.. Misplaced priorities.”
@ashantylami:”But how can you stop keke in key areas in a town like Abuja where a good number of graduates can’t afford a car and need to move around? I’m trying so hard to understand this country. How can one be happy in a country like this?”
@sweetprisca:”Federal Government bans keke in Abuja. What a shame of all things to do at this time banning keke is their problem. i just feel for those feeding their families from this it’s obvious the Government doesn’t care about those they are governing.”
@obiforlife:” so i saw some people in their coperate attires trekking to work this morning because the FCT Minister decided to have misplaced priorities. so those ones will get to work now looking like they just came from the farm. this country is a joke!!
@thirdemperor:” Now that the FCT Minister put a ban on keke napep what provisions did he make to compliment those that just lost their jobs because of his stupid decision. abi they want the insecurity in the city to multiply.”
@sweetcherry:” I can’t believe that transportation fare just increased due to this keke ban. can somebody tell this FCT Minister that we are not cows but humanbeings. na wa oo for Nigeria.”
@mrodeeh: ” so just trekked from apo to area three junction because keke was nowhere to be found. FCT Minister this is not what we asked you to do.”
All these tweets have one thing in common-the mistaken belief of a ban when there was indeed none. These are clearly knee jerk reactions that were made based on assumptions.
What many failed to realise is that long before the enforcement began,the FCT administration had set the ball rolling for the deployment of 34 high capacity buses, from the fleet of Abuja Urban Mass Transport, along the routes worse hit by its decision to keep tricycles off the highways and city centre.
In all thirty four (34) buses are to service the routes with Lugbe alone having eleven (11) to run from Lugbe to Eagle Square (3), Lugbe to Area 1 (4) and Lugbe to Berger (4)
A large chunk of the buses are also to operate from Gudu,Gwarimpa and Galadimawa to the City Centre, so the FCT minister did not make the move without considering alternatives to the ubiquitous tricycle operators who have for years extended their operations to the highways without a thought for safety concerns.
For now, the FCT administration has vowed to press on with the enforcement of the transport master plan and for Minister Muhammad Bello, it is another major step towards attaining one of his 12 Presidential Deliverables, which is: to achieve significant improvement in the efficiency and consistency of traffic management, signage and sewage disposal systems throughout the FCT
This piece was written by an Abuja-based Journalist and Public Affairs Analyst Dapo Okubanjo