Legalizing And Regulating Okada Verses Armed Robbery: The Context Is Not The Same — Prof. John Gatsi
Broad usage of Okada
During political campaign tours of Presidential and Vice President candidates, hundreds of motorbikes are used. Okada riders are used. Politicians in both NPP and NDC are buying and distributing motorbikes to their supporters ordinarily for Okada business and to support their campaigns. On election days in the past and during the recent voter registration exercise, both NDC and NPP executives made use of Okada to transport people from their homes and distant places to be able to participate in the exercise.
Okada is patronized by traders, farmers, community health nurses and teachers who live in one village/ town but work in another village. In some rural areas, Okada transports some farmers to their farms in the morning and pick them up in the evening. Okada is a major means of transportation in rural areas in Ghana.
Okada verses armed robbery
Okada business is carried out without the intention to harm and take the property of people away. It is not carried out with arms and harmful tools. It is not carried out with force rather within the ordinary process of bargain with interested passengers so they can conclude on simple oral agreements. Any harm and death that may occur falls within the general definition of accident. Perhaps, as a result of lack of training and use of protective helmets.
Armed robbery, on the other hand, is carried out with the intention to harm without prior bargain and agreement. It is an intentional act to forcefully take the possessions of other people and subject them to beating, harm and psychological trauma. Thus, it is unfortunate to compare the socioeconomic and developmental dimensions of Okada to armed robbery. Legalizing armed robbery means empowering people to intentionally kill, beat and forcefully take away the possessions of others without punishment. Legalizing armed robbery means promoting a jungle environment but for Okada, it makes prior training, observance of road regulations to protect the riders, passengers and the community at large as formal requirement. For the avoidance of doubt, legalizing Okada only means ensuring Okada business is done in a manner that is reflective of the collective views of citizens
Do not insult Okada riders and those who are in support of the policy intention. Make your arguments for or against. There should not be blame game as when was Okada banned. The argument should be who has recognized that making Okada business illegal was not the solution and that something must be done about it.
Legalizing Okada will increase productive cost (expenditure ) to government and at the same time enhance regulated alternative means of transport subject to the choice of people. The alternative to Okada in the short to medium term is Okada.
Implement the law prohibiting the use of Okada in Ghana if you believe that not legalizing and regulating Okada is a reflection of the will of Ghanaians. If you cannot enforce the law and promote better rural transportation system for millions of rural communities in Ghana, and above all, maintain livelihood of thousands of people directly involved in Okada, then you do not have any solutions to the issues. A government must be ready to find innovative solutions to meaningfully address the Okada challenge.
Regulation, deregulation and reregulation, are a reflection of the changes in society. Both armed robbery and Okada are today illegal ventures in Ghana, but as to why it is Okada that should be the topic for discussion today, is a function of changes in society and new realities that will not destroy the cohesion of our country. Society has not seen any positive attraction in legalizing other crimes such as armed robbery. However, society has over the past 8 years been attracted to positive realities that should be addressed through the process of legalization of Okada. It is worth remembering that even though armed robbery remains a crime, society was concerned about instant and mob justice. Because of the reality that some people might not be the ones who committed the crime and professionals should handle such issues. Laws should reflect and guide development. Public discussion whether triggered by a political party’s approach to solving Okada challenges in line with current realities of jobs, ease of alternative transportation and accidents, is indeed good because various views are being expressed to model the law to make eventual legalization effective and progressive.
There are challenges about Okada in Ghana. One of such challenges is accidents. We chose prohibition 8 years ago but it is very clear that prohibiting Okada is not a 21st-century solution given the structure and development of our society. Okada transports people to work, the work is recognized and respected but Okada (as work) that sends the people to work is Christened illegal with no sense of belonging in the productivity space. It is not the joy of anybody to be providing an essential service being patronized by politicians, legislators, civil servants, traders among others but the service providers and the service are considered illegal.
Legalizing Okada has everything to do with our social realities and does not yield itself to such comparisons with armed robbery.
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