I spent the better part of last weekend reflecting on the menace of commercial motorcyclists in Kubwa, a suburb of the Federal Capital Territory where most people who operate in Abuja Municipal area reside.

I came up with little or no explanation why the minister of the federal capital Territory Bala Mohammed who has spent nearly one year in office has not found effective ways of checking these unprecedented threats that these commercial motorcyclists pose to the lives and safety of hundreds of thousands of commuters who live in Kubwa and have no other means of transportation.

For three hours I made sure I spoke with a dozen persons in Kubwa on my growing concern for the risks posed to decent people by these commercial motorcyclists also called ‘Okada’, ‘Inaga’, or ‘Going’ in our local Nigerian parlances. These risks include raping of female customers, robbing customers of their belongings and the frequent fatal accidents.

A medical doctor of distinction who has lived and practiced his profession in Kubwa for over twenty years spoke extensively about the dangers that these reckless and unregulated commercial motorcyclists constitute to even innocent commuters who are either driving in their private cars or commercial buses because in most occasions these over speeding motorcyclists will simply ram their ramshackle motorcycles on moving vehicles resulting in some fatalities for the occupants of both the private car or commercial bus and the motorcycle.

“My brother if you see the extent of injuries inflicted on people by these reckless motorcycle operators you will be shocked. In the last one year, we have treated over fifty persons who were injured by them and we were forced to refer most of these cases to orthopedic hospitals in Kano and Enugu States”.

The medical practitioner also told me that the number of these commercial motorcyclists are increasing on daily basis in Kubwa because he had noticed that every weekend about two or three trailer loads of able bodied young men apparently from say Kano or Sokoto are dropped at the Kubwa junction even as most of them come with their motorcycles and immediately they disembark they will go into business in Kubwa.

“My brother what kind of a city is this whereby people come from nowhere and immediately disappear into the crowd and begin ferrying people in commercial motorcycles and nobody in the government has bordered to regulate the practice which means that even terrorists and armed robbers may easily absorb themselves into the city and go about their nefarious activities even while disguising as commercial motorcyclists?” the doctor asked.

Another respondent who was bold enough to identify himself as Salisu said the massive influx of commercial motorcyclists in Kubwa is a huge security threat and that a lot of people he know have suffered one injury or the other while patronizing them. “My brother I am worried that the Authority of Federal Capital Territory has not phased out Okada from Kubwa and introduce Keke Napep or tricycle which is safer to convey people around”, he stated.

Bosede, another respondent told me that for instance in Gwagwalada last week, she came across a young lady who was mercilessly robbed and raped by a vicious commercial motorcycle operator who was meant to convey her from her house to the park but instead sped off into the thick bush in that early hours of the day to have marathon sex with her on knife point.

From these narratives of the above respondents, one point that is consistently present in all of them is that most commercial motorcyclists are dubious, vicious, violent, and reckless and may indeed be trained terrorists who are simply disguising as petty transporters in order not to attract the attention or curiosity of security operatives.

Certainly there are a few good and decent young Nigerians who because of lack of employment opportunities have found refuge in operating as commercial motorcycle operators just to keep body and soul together. What the officials of federal Capital Territory should do is to phase out the use of motorcycle for transportation in Kubwa, Lugbe, and Gwagwalada but should introduce tricycles or Keke Napep.

The transport directorate and the social welfare department of the Federal Capital Development Authority should liaise with officials of the National Directorate of Employment and the National poverty eradication programme (NAPEP) (weak as the agency is with Magnus Kpakol as National Coordinator) to compile a list of all commercial motorcyclists in Kubwa, Lugbe, Nyanya and Gwagwalada in order to determine those that are qualified to get credit facilities to buy Keke NAPEP or tricycles which should replace the motorcycles as means of transportation for the hundreds of thousands of poor people.

But come to think of it, why has there been no deliberate and effective integration of urban transport and urban planning in Abuja? Why did government concentrate on erecting beautiful edifices and few roads without effectively building a workable rail network for instance in Abuja?

Robert Cervero of the Department of city and Regional planning of the University of California, the United States of America said there is a necessary link between integration of urban transport and urban planning.

According to him transportation functions as vehicle to achieve broader personnel and societal objectives whether earning a living or creating highly livable and memorable communities.

Proper planning and execution of integration of urban transportation and urban planning will also help in a very big way to checking congestion and pollution of the environment in a city that is fast growing like Abuja.

Robert Cervero observed that Mexico City’s congestion and pollution would be much worse were it not for the dynamic and wide-ranging transportation system that has evolved over the years in response to explosive growth.

But the reverse is the case unfortunately in Abuja because the authority in the last one decade are bereft of effective idea on ways, means and strategies to effectively implement workable urban mass transportation programmes that is sustainable over a long period of time and can serve the transportation needs of people living and doing their legitimate businesses in Abuja. Successive administrations in Abuja have worked out only artificial and cosmetic transportation strategy for Abuja which is why commercial motorcyclists have today invaded most parts of the city.

Cervero wrote thus; “Transportation infrastructure is vital to the economic growth and well-being of cities, particularly in developing parts of the world….” It is time for government to deliver sustainable and creative means of transporting people in the nation’s capital.

Onwubiko heads Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria.

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