The ban placed by the Rivers State Government on the operations of motorcycles popularly known as Okada in Port Harcourt City and its environs has created the opportunity for tricycle also known as Keke Napep to creep into the transportation system of the state. Keke Napep was introduced by the Federal Government during the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo to check poverty among Nigerians.
However, the influence of the vehicle was not felt so much in the state until recently when the State Government banned the use of motorcycles as a means of transportation in the city of Port Harcourt, Obio/Akpor and other local government areas.
Some in the city have described Keke Napep as a substitute to Okada in the city. This is against the background that the vehicles now ply those routes that were used by motorcycles in those days.
Apart from plying the narrow routes, Keke Napep can be seen in major roads in the city such as Ada George, Agip, Abacha road, Elioparanwo, NTA, Mgbuoba road amongst others.
However, the Rivers State Government has also banned the operation of the vehicle in Port Harcourt City and its environs.
The Special Adviser to the Governor on Traffic Matters, Engineer Ronald Odoyi, who announced the ban on behalf of the state government said that the system is not needed in Port Harcourt.
Engr. Odoyi said that the situation was necessitated by the need to save the city from environmental pollution that will be caused by gaseous emission by the vehicle.
According to him, tricycle and motorcycles have similar kinds of engines that are environmentally unfriendly in a big city like Port Harcourt.
The Special Adviser also blamed the resurgence in heavy traffic congestion across the city on the operation of Keke Napep.
However, since the announcement, more and more Keke Napeps are being seen daily in the city. The announcement is not also going down well with some sections of the society who see it as a ploy by the government towards further impoverishing the people of the state.
Some of those who spoke to The Tide On Sunday on the issue said that the state government has no reason to ban Keke Napep in the city since the system is now a source of income to many families in the state and beyond.
They also pointed out that the scarcity of taxis in the city is enough reason for the vehicles to operate.
In his view, Mr. Goodluck Bare said that Keke Napep is more accessible to people than buses and taxis.
“Keke Napep is preferred by people because of its easy movement. It moves faster than taxis and buses due to its size.
“It is tinier than others and so can easily manoeuvre its way through traffic jam”.
For Mr. Jolomie, a taxi driver, Keke Napep hastens movement. He added that despite the high patronage by people, it does not affect his business.
In his words: “People prefer Keke Napep to other means of transportation because it is a government project to eradicate poverty and that is why well meaning Nigerians appreciate it.
“They appreciate those youths who have taken to Keke Napep instead of remaining idle”.
In her view, Mrs Margaret Dodo said that the vehicle has boosted productivity in the state as it hasten movement.
Also speaking, Miss Ifeoma said that she prefers Keke Napep anyday, any time to buses because of its comfortability. While Mr. Wale who is a dealer in the vehicle said that people prefer the vehicle because it is safer to move with.
However, for Mr. Geoffrey Joe, a Civil Servant, “it is dangerous to travel with the vehicle since it is not balanced”.
Having examined the reactions of the public on the issue, it is now pertinent to note that Keke Napep, with its three wheels is too fragile to be used on major roads in the state as it can turnover.
The issue of pollution as raised by the Special Adviser must also be critically examined.
If the condition of roads in Port Harcourt City at the moment is anything to go by, the vehicle is not suitable for transportation in the city.
Elizabeth Ephraim Edi George