Ban On Tricycles: What Next? …Govt Insists On Deadline, Commuters, Operators React

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As the deadline for the operators of commercial tricycles on the streets of Port Harcourt expired last Wednesday, the vehicles are virtually disappearing from the streets of Port Harcourt, Obio/Akpor, Eleme and Oyigbo local councils areas. The Rivers State Government had banned the use of the commercial tricycles popularly called Keke NAPEP because of what it perceived as constitution of nuisance in the Garden City metropolis and also polluting the environment. But operators had wished that they were limited to certain streets of Port Harcourt instead of totally banishing them from the city. Speaking with The Tide, Iheannacho Dimkpa, a tricycle operator in the Rumuodomaya area of Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State, noted that the ban on the operation of Keke NAPEP had caused him to relocate to the hinterland of the state. According to him, it is not easy to make ends meet in the rural areas because the standard of living in these places is low.. “Therefore, you find out that the rural dwellers prefer to work long distance to boarding a tricycles. They are used to it. You don’t blame them, it will take a long time before they get used to things like tricycles. Besides in the rural areas, the tricycles are in competition with the ordinary motorcycles, which are faster,” he stated. He said that as a law-abiding citizen of the state, he remarked that he would not be the one to stop government from moving forward. Mr Dimkpa stated his relocation to the rural area was his own sacrifice to enable the state move forward. The Keke NAPEP operator noted that many of Governor Amaechi’s policies were good but regretted that some of them bought the vehicles on hire purchase and wondered how they would make enough money to pay their instalments. He said a default in one instalment was capable of making the vehicle owner to recover his property and every other instalments which he had made prior to his default would be of no consequence. Mr. Dimkpa stated that the hire purchase agreement was not favourable to the hirer. He stated that they were looking forward to a situation where government would compensate them for the loss of their jobs, or defray the cost of the Keke NAPEP as most of them were family men. Also speaking, Mr. Femi from Osun State who operated his Keke NAPEP at Rumuokwuta junction stated that he would miss Port Harcourt metropolis by relocating to the rural area. He said he would not ask government to revoke the law in place but would ask government to be kind enough to compensate them. Mr. Femi, whose mother is a native of Egbeda in Emohua Local Government Area of the state, said he brought his Keke to Port Harcourt because, the vehicles were few in the Garden City. According to him, he had hoped to make good money through his tricycle but the law is no respecter of persons. He said he would send the vehicle to his maternal home, while he remained in Port Harcourt. Mr. Femi, who said he trained as an engineer noted that the ratio of unemployment was high and pointed out that ugly situation had reduced graduates to nothing. He said the people living in the area, which they used to ply would miss them because taxis and buses did not ply the area and noted in Abuja and Lagos, Keke NAPEP still operated. Mr Femi remarked that though he had complied with deadline, he was not happy that government wasn’t concerned with their loss of jobs and what happened to their dependants. He said that government should be concerned about the unemployed and there should be a deliberate effort on the part of government to help the self-employed sustain their jobs.. “It is not easy for anybody to be self employed. It takes guts, ideas, finds and the willingness to take risk”, he state. Also speaking, another operator, Mr Ekwo Akpan said he would not believe that the deadline was April 1and wished that the day would never come but such things would never be wished away. Mr. Akpan expressed regrets that the ban on Keke NAPEP would cost his family a lot. According to him, the implication for he and his family were obvious and regrettable. He said he would not be able to keep his children in school because of fees. Besides, he said he would never be able to renew his rent in the one-bedroom flat which he occupied with his family. Mr. Akpan said since the law had been executed he was not willing to cry over a spit milk, pointing out that he is willing to face the challenges that come with his dislocation. He said life must still go on. On the other hand, Mr. Friday Ogbugo, an economist said the cost implication of loss of employment or vocation is not only borne by the individual alone but the nation in general as the dependency ratio increases, In deed, government should pay allowances to the unemployed and make deliberate efforts to assist the self-employed because the overall benefit is for government. He said that the small scale business persons should be encouraged because they help to develop the state. According to him, there should be greater commitment on the part of government April 1 encourage self-employment for the development of the state. Also speaking, Miss Merit Ogunu, a Port Harcourt resident, said she was happy that Keke NAPEP had been banned because the vehicles were overloaded by operators. She remarked that the vehicle lacked the needed balance to operate on city roads. She maintained that it was good that government banned the operation of the tricycles but wondered if government would provide jobs for the operators. ‘I believe that Keke NAPEP is a means of livelihood for the operators as a result government should provide jobs for the operators to stem recourse to crime”, she said. According to her, :I believe that the operators of Keke NAPEP are the former motorcyclists, who transformed into tricycles because they do not want to go into the rural areas. If they are not compensated, there is a likelihood that they may resort to crime. Miss Ogunu noted that the implication of the ban on commercial tricycles would weigh heavily on commuters in areas where neither buses nor taxis ply. “It is not enough to ban Keke NAPEP, there should be alternative arrangement for commuters in those areas”, she opined. “Government should be responsive to needs of the citizens. So you don’t ban Keke without providing alternative means of transport for the people; she noted. “While we appreciate the transformation that is ongoing in the state, we must point out to Governor Amaechi that development must wear a human face”, she further stated. Miss Ogunu, who is a Delta State indigene commended Governor Amaechi for the giant strides he had taken since he assumed office but pointed out that human development should be an index to the structural development since, according to her, development was for human and vice versa. She said there were certain government policies that have placed so much hardship on the people and noted that such policies should be subjected to public opinion before they are passed into law. Miss Ogunu, who runs a shop in Port Harcourt maintained that she had supported the ban on Okada because of the viciousness of their operators but why wondered why there was a ban of Keke NAPEP, when it could be used for commission of crime. She said the Keke NAPEP would have been limited to the streets, where taxis do not ply. Miss Ogunu said if the commercial tricycles were banned for esthetic reasons, it would be regrettable. She noted that commuters were stranded along Elioparanwo area where taxis did not ply and explained that it would be a regular scenario. Chidi Enyie