PAYING MUCH attention to motorcycles for commercial purposes, popularly called Okada, we are left thinking as to whether this means of transportation in the country is a positive growth in the transportation sector of our country, or a mere national collective problem that people now contend with.
It leaves much to be desired considering their riding manners, attitudes towards traffic regulations, disregard for the rights of pedestrians, the frequent accidents they are involved in and the manner in which they escape the many legal suits against them by authorities.
In the Greater Accra Region, particularly at Ashaiman, motor riders are mostly seen lined up along the pavement and lorry stations busily hunting for passengers. Many people patronise Okada because they consider it as faster, convenient and an efficient means of transport. Despite its high charges as compared to the amount commercial vehicles charge, many people still patronise the Okada means of transport.
It appears many of the commercial vehicles that ply the streets, the roads and footpaths of our country are largely owned by influential people who are amassing themselves with a good sum of money per each Okada. The Okada costs between GH¢3,500 and GH¢5,500, excluding required paper work such as licence and insurance.
According to some members of the Ashaiman Okada Riders Association, an average charge per a short distance costs at least GH¢3 and daily sales by an Okada owner is GH¢60, and with that the rider is responsible for gassing the motorcycle and taking care of all repairs and maintenance.
Let's do some calculations and see the result: Assuming the rider works for six days in a week – multiplying the daily sales by six days (60X6=360). Taking the calculation to this level, 60×313=18,780, if 52 days are taken away from the 365 days in a year, as Sundays are non-riding days for each Okada. Per this calculation, it indicates that one Okada is enough to buy more than three motorcycles in a year.
Probing further to ascertain the ownership of the Okada, it appears most of the motorcycle are owned by people in higher positions including state security personnel who sometimes take loans from financial institutions to buy the motorcycles.
This brings to light the reason behind some corruption in the system where owners of motorcycles sometimes intervene or protect them whenever they flout the road traffic regulation. The Okada menace has become a very lucrative business where one person owns more than a single motorcycle.
At Ashaiman where this research was conducted, it was obvious that Okada riders neither care about the law nor about pedestrians as they are seen moving all over the streets, with total disregard for the lanes demarcated for incoming or outgoing traffic.
Interestingly, something strange which has been observed from the Okada riders is that their confidence moves higher immediately they climb on top of the motorcycle. They clearly look down on pedestrians and vehicles, disregard their rights to the road, and could smash anyone who stands in their way. While moving at Ashaiman, drivers rather have to give way to Okada riders on the street with the fear of knocking them down.
The seeming much lawlessness among the Okada riders in the area poses very serious safety concerns. Although some people have called for the ban of such means of transportation, the lack of law enforcement to further control these Okada riders poses a very serious threat to our national safety if not addressed immediately. Many of the Okada owners are amassing wealth generated by their motorcycles, for which reason they deliberately ignore the many safety and social problems these riders pose to our people. Okada business at Ashaiman raises concern over the safety of our pedestrians, moving traffic, Okada passengers, and even to the Okada riders themselves.
The failure of the government to pay attention to the lawlessness of the Okada riders has started showing its dreadful results as Okada accidents that resulted in injuries and deaths of persons top cases reported at the Emergency Unit of the Tema General Hospital.
These fatal accidents are occurring and increasing daily simply because majority of those who ride motorcycles do not either have licences, or they are ignorant of basic traffic rules and moving violations. Many ride the motorcycles without either licence, insurance, or even helmets, and by their riding skills, it is easy to tell that they are novice in the motorcycle riding business.
In an interview with some residents of Ashaiman, they expressed concerns about how they were nearly or knocked down by motorbikes when crossing the road, particularly at the traffic light junction. They condemned the business and called upon the government to ban the business because to them it is posing a threat to their lives.
Apart from pedestrians being in danger, many also trade alongside the road. Speaking to some of these traders, they disclosed that the activities of these commercial motorbikes riders endanger their lives a lot so they are always vigilant. Even with that, some of them get knocked down sometimes. They also complained that the small portion along the road left for them to stay and do their businesses is the same place these motor riders usually pack and hunt for passengers. They therefore appealed to the government to do something about the situation.
The actions of these Okada riders are said to be making the streets of Ashaiman insecure for pedestrians and other road users. Commercial motor riders must be called to order and sanctions applied to those who flout the orders. Speaking to one of the commercial motorists, he stated that he knows they are supposed to obey traffic road regulations but he sometimes overlooks it when he is in a hurry. He also disclosed that sometimes the passengers pressurize them to do so because they are in a hurry.
Meanwhile, this Okada business has not been legalized in the country and many are calling for it legalisation. But looking at the situation at hand, one can wonder what will happen if this business is finally legalized.
The writer is a student journalist
By Ama Beimkwe Attafoe
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