Former President John Dramani Mahama has strongly defended his promise to legalize the commercial use of motorcycles popularly called 'okada' in Ghana if he is elected President on December 7.
Mr Mahama in an address to chiefs and people of Kpando in the Volta Region as part of his tour of the region said he recognizes the benefits of the 'okada' business to the many families that depend on it, hence his promise.
Currently, the use of motorbikes and tricycles for commercial purposes in any form is against Ghana's Road Traffic Regulations 2012 (L.I 2180).
Some members of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) have criticized Mahama over the promise describing it as hypocritical and an attempt to lure Ghanaians to vote for him.
But speaking in an interview on XYZ TV, John Mahama who is also a former President said his promise is because okada it has provided more jobs than any government policy.
“This is a service that has come to stay. Whether you legalize it or not you cannot stop it and so why behave like the ostrich and bury your head in the sand. These okadas have created more jobs in this economy than any government job-related policy. It has created more jobs than NABCo, it has created more jobs than YEA and all those artificial job creation programs.”
He further argued that legalizing the trade will enable government to save the riders from constant harassment from the police since they are currently operating illegally.
“These young people are living under harassment because it is illegal and so the police harass them; they stop them from time to time and take money off them and all that. And so, my suggestion is that we should legalize it and regulate it to make it safer by training the riders, ensuring that the riders observe all the safety precautions and provide a helmet for the passenger.”
The former President also indicated that by regularizing the commercial use of motorcycles, riders will be easily identified to ensure that they go by all traffic regulations.
“We must be able to identify that this is a commercial motorcycle so that we can ensure that they are following the rules and they must obey all traffic regulations. You can't pick a passenger and get to a red traffic light and ride through. So, I say let's legalize, let’s regularize because it has created sustainable jobs and people are earning an income out of this.”
Mr Mahama further argued that the ‘okada’ business is the only means of transport in some deprived parts of the country.
“I think that a lot of our policymakers look at job creation at a certain level, they don't realise the impact that certain segments do in creating sustainable jobs. And like I said, whether we like it or not, that transport segment of boys riding motorbikes for a living, especially in the rural areas where people cannot afford to buy cars and run regular transport services it is the motorcycles that transport everything from goods to human beings, and it has come to stay.”