By Polycarp Auta
In 2012, the Plateau Government banned commercial motorcyclists, popular known as Okada riders, and regulated the operations of commercial tricycles within Jos and Bukuru metropolis.
The ban on Okada followed a law passed by the House of Assembly and assented to by Jonah Jang, the then governor.
The law banned Okada in Jos and Bukuru axis and also directed tricycle operators to ply only designated routes within the city and operate between 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
Government cited security concerns for the ban after alleging that motorcyclists were being used as tools to commit most heinous crimes.
The enforcement of the law was greeted with stiff resistance, particularly by those who thought the move was targeted at a particular section of the society, but government stood its grounds and weeded the riders off the streets.
To cushion the hardships to commuters caused by the ban, government provided buses, taxis and tricycles on loan basis to interested citizens who plied the affected routes.
A task force made up of government officials was constituted to monitor compliance
But the joy of Jos residents appears short lived with the recent resurgence of commercial motorcycle operators on routes that were hitherto a taboo for them.
Currently, they operate freely in Rayfield, Zaramaganda, Dadin Kowa, Sabon Barki, Rantya, Tudun Wada, Abattior, among others.
More worrisome is the fact that motorcyclists ply major streets and highways in Jos without risk of punishment, a practice that the law had prohibited.
They have entered the city centre and are a common place around terminus market, Ahmadu Bello way, Murtala way, Yakubu Gowon way, among others.
Mr John Gyang, a resident of Dadin Kowa, says the Okada riders have constituted a serious menace and had, over time, contributed to the rising rate of accidents.
“The Okada riders are usually reckless on the highways; the ban restored sanity to the roads, but with their return, the evil days are here again,” he fumed.
Other observers have accused security personnel of constituting a major violator of the ban, noting that most of the riders were either military personnel or Policemen.
Worried by the development, the Plateau House of Assembly recently called for the full enforcement of the law banning the operations of commercial motorcyclists in Jos.
The House, in a motion presented by Daniel Nanbol, member representing Lantang North Central, expressed deep concern over the non-compliance to the law.
Nanbol reminded the lawmakers that there was a law banning the operations of motorcycles in Jos and that even the tricycles had designated areas within which to operate.
He argued that the unchecked operations of Okada riders was constituting a security threat to the residents.
“It is not safe to board even tricycles in some areas; it will be good for the law enforcement agents to do their job,” he said.
Mr Baba Hassan, member representing Jos North Constituency, also expressed worry over the high level of insecurity stemming from the unchecked operations of Okada and tricycle riders.
House Majority Leader, Daniel Naanlong, said that it was imperative for the people to adhere to the laws.
“We must ensure that the laws we enact are fully implemented,” he declared.
The Speaker of the House, Abok Ayuba, agreed with his colleagues, declaring that laws passed by the House must be fully implemented.
“The laws we make must be implemented and we must call on those who failed to enforce them to come before us and explain the reason for their failure,” he said.
The Plateau chapter of the Nigeria Union of journalists (NUJ), in a communiqué issued at the end of its congress held on July 9, expressed deep concern over the “nefarious activities of motorcycles and tricycles”.
The communiqué signed by Mr Peter Amine, its Secretary, called on government and security agencies to totally enforce the ban on motorcycles and regulate tricycle operations in Jos and Bukuru metropolis.
The union called on security agencies to review the closing time for the operation of tricycles from the current 8 p.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
On his part, Mr Dan Majang, Commissioner of Information and Communications, has described the resurgence as “an unfortunate development”.
He said that the law banning Okada and regulating tricycle operators in Jos was still subsisting, warning that anyone found breaking it must be arrested and prosecuted.
“The position of government is that the ban on the operation of motorcyclists in Jos and Bukuru metropolis still remains. It is promulgated by the state house of assembly; it has not been repealed.
“It is unfortunate that we are experiencing a resurgence of the operators. The non-compliance is purely an act of illegality,” he said.
The commissioner blamed the resurgence on the non-enforcement of the ban by the security and relevant government agencies, adding that the return of the Okada operators was a threat to the peace and security of the state.
“These operators perpetrate a lot of crime and pose serious security threats to the state. Their resurgence is dangerous.
“So, I want to call on the security agencies and the Ministry of transport to intensify efforts toward ensuring that the ban is enforced to the later.”
Corroborating Manjang, Mr Ubah Ogaba, the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) in the state, insisted that the ban had not been lifted nor was the law amended.
The PPRO said that the Police Command had heeded the call by NUJ and reviewed the closing hour for the operation of tricycles to 7 p.m. daily.
According to the spokesperson, the command has arrested many violators of the ban and will continue the raid.
“The ban on the operation of Okada has not been lifted. It is a law and only by a legislation can it be amended.
“We have arrested a good number of violators, impounded their motorcycles and have charged many to court.
“We expect all tricycle operators to comply with the new closing time; it will help address some of the security challenges in Jos and Bukuru,’’ he said.
Ogaba advised residents of the state to desist from violating the ban, warning that anyone caught would be made to face the full wrath of the law.
The PPRO rejected claims that some security personnel were guilty of flouting the ban on Okada riding in the city, and explained that the few ones seen on the roads were used “purely for official duties”. (NANfeatures)
** If used, please credit the writer and the News Agency of Nigeria.