I have family of seven. My children are in school. It is from this business that I pay their school fees,” he further stated.
As Rivers State Government’s deadline on the use of commercial tricycle draws close by the day, there are feelers that most operators of the vehicle have caught hay fever.
The Rivers State government had earlier this year banned the use of commercial tricycles on the streets of Port Harcourt due to what it termed environmental pollution. The Special Adviser to the Governor on Traffic Matters, Engr. Ronald Odoyi, who announced the ban on behalf of the state government said the vehicles were no longer needed on the streets of Port Harcourt.
Engr. Odoyi explained that the city would be saved from environmental pollution caused by gaseous emission from such vehicles.
He said the tricycles and motorcycles had the same kind of engine that are environmentally unfriendly to a big city like Port Harcourt.
By the end of this month, the tricycles popularly called Keke NAPEP (a branding that is reminiscent of the person, who introduced it) will disappear from the streets of Port Harcourt.
Nigeria’s former President, General Olusegun Obasanjo had introduced the tricycles as means of cushioning simmering poverty during his tenure.
However, Keke NAPEP did not become fashionable in Port Harcourt until commercial motorcycles were ordered out of the Garden city for a plethora of crimes committed by its operators.
In Port Harcourt, the vehicles are restricted to areas that neither have taxis and buses plying them. That is why they are Majorly found in places like Ada-George, Agip, Abacha Road, Elioparanwo, Mgbuoba and Rumuokwuta junction, among other streets and roads.
Speaking with The Weekend Tide in Port Harcourt, an operator of Keke NAPEP, Mr. James Wangu who plies the Rumuokwuta route said that government should be kind enough to rescind its decision since they did not use the vehicle to steal or do devious things.
According to him, government did not give a cogent and compelling reason why they have to ban Keke NAPEP. “you see it was the federal government that introduced the tricycles, while the state is banning it. Does it mean the two governments are working at cross purposes? It is hard to believe”, he stated.
Mr. Wangu, who said he hails from Abia State regretted that while the vehicle is being banned in Port Harcourt, places like Lagos, Abuja and other states of the Federal were still using it.
“Government should allow us to continue, we pay ticket N300 a day and register with N10,000. all these are revenue for government”, he stated.
“I have family of seven. My children are n school. It is from this business that I pay their school fees,” he further stated.
Mr. Nicholas Akpan, an Akwa Ibomite who spoke with The Weekend Tide said he got married recently and that it was through the Keke NAPEP that he feeds his family.
Mr. Akpan said he did not have another business. According to him, it is not easy to get a job in Nigeria “therefore those of us that are self employed should be encouraged.
He said apart from using it as a means of livelihood, they also paid tax to government. He said government’s drive to enhance the revenue of the state would be whittled down if this source of revenue was outrightly banned.
Also Mr. Paul Nwibo, an indigene of Ebonyi State, who plied his Keke NAPEP in Port Harcourt said, “I feel bad that the Keke NAPEP is banned.
I am a family man. I have no other job. I have five children, all in school.
I pray government to allow us to continue. I know that some of the operators do not know how to ride but that should not be the reason why the government should ban it.”
“Goveror Ohakim purchased more than hundred keke NAPEP and distributed same to people in order to alleviate poverty. But in Rivers State nobody cares about the plight of the common man, you see it is pathetic”, he said.
He urged government to come to their rescue in order to alleviate their plight.
Another operator, Mr. Bright Obowu, who hails from Imo State said that there was nothing evil with the commercial tricycle and pointed out that as an unemployed person, he used to make ends meet with the tricycle.
He regretted that the Rivers State government was banning everything that helped to alleviate the suffering of the unemployed.
Mr. Obowu said he had resorted to Keke when Okada was banned but did not know what to do now that keke has been banned.
He urged government to rescind its decision to enable them have a means of livelihood.
However, there is hardly much that can be done now that the ban has a legal backing.
Speaking with The Weekend Tide, Barr. Chijoke Agi who practices in Port Harcourt said that much can be done now that not there is law in place. Nothing can be done unless the Rivers State Road Traffic law (prohibition of Tricycles Law 2010) is abrogated”, he said.
He said any one convicted will be liable to one month imprisonment or fine of N10,000.
According to him, from the 1st of April, 2010 neither private nor commercial tricycles would be found in Port Harcourt metropolis.
Barrister Agi explained that the ban applied to only four local government areas of Port Harcourt, Obio/Akpor, Eleme and Oyigbo and urged the operators to make do with the rest of the 19 local council areas in the state.
He regretted that such vehicles could be a means of transport in the 21st century.
Barr. Agi said it was a demonstration of underdevelopment and enjoined the operators to comply with government’s deadline for the society to move forward.
He urged them to consider the ban as a challenge.
Also speaking, Mr. Friday Ogbugo, an economist said that though the ban on keke NAPEP would lead to loss of earnings, it was necessary as the Keke NAPEP constituted nuisance on the roads.
Mr. Ogbugo remarked that he hailed the enabling law as that would foreclose the threat posed by tricycles.
He noted that in Abuja, commercial tricycles ply the streets and not the major roads.
According to him, Nigerians should be innovative not dwelling on things that are over used.