Raymond Ozoji, Awka
The need for Keke drivers to drive to stay alive as well as curb insecurity perpetrated with their tricycles informed the one-day training and re-orientation programme for tricycle operators in the Anambra-North senatorial zone of the state organised by the state ministry of transport.
The re-orientation programme which had the theme “Drive To Stay Alive” was a veritable platform for government to explain the nitty gritty of its plans to enthrone sanity and orderliness in the tricycle sub-sector of the transport industry.
Keke drivers from the zone converged on All Saints Cathedral Onitsha to obtain first hand Information on what they should do henceforth to conduct their businesses in the most orderly manner and reduce incessant accidents caused by their tricycles.
The event which was put together by the state government in collaboration with Tricycle Owners Association of Nigeria Anambra State Chapter, had various paper presentations and speeches from paramilitary organisations like the Federal Road Safety Corps, Nigeria Security and Cvil Defence Corps, Anambra State Road Traffic Management Agency, Vehicle Inspection Unit and a host of others, who took ample time to educate Keke drivers on the right attitudes to observe while conducting their operations.
The state commissioner for transport Mr. Afamefuna Chinedu Mbanefo said government placed very high premium on commercial tricycle operations in the state and did not intend to throw anyone out of business because government understood the implications and consequences of such decisions.
Mbanefo said the sensitisation training was to expose them to the need to acquire their licenses and deepen their relationship with the state government, stressing that government was not unmindful of issues of false tickets but wanted Keke operators to have direct communication with government to end all forms of obnoxious tickets imposed on them by unscrupulous elements.
The commissioner also stated that security measures had been put in place to check criminal tendencies amongst Keke drivers. He said that the Anambra State Transport Management Code (ATMC Code) has been set up to identify every commercial tricycle operating in the state.
According to him, “We have given Keke drivers up to December this year to obtain the ATMC Number. Any Keke without the ATMC Code will not be allowed to operate in Anambra state.”
Mbanefo was however of the opinion that the training was timely because government wants Keke operators to drive to stay alive to fend for themselves and their families especially as the crave for Christmas rend the air. He also added that tricycle operators have unified tickets of N450.00 which they obtain daily and that any other ticket was arrant falsehood even though he pointed out that government was still investigating an alleged N5000.00 end-of-the-year party levy Keke drivers were asked to pay in Awka-South local government area of the state.
On the other hand, state chairman of Keke Drivers’ Union In Anambra Mr. Sylvester Obiora said the programme was organised to teach Keke drivers the rules of driving especially as the yuletide season approached.
Obiora who debunked the claim by some Keke drivers that they bought tickets for N500.00, maintained that nobody issued tickets at the rate of N500.00 within Onitsha and its environs. He said government ticket was N350.00 and N100.00 was for the union even as he informed that government plans to reduce the ticket rates further from January next year.
The Keke drivers’ union boss noted that irrespective of the conditions of roads across the state, there was need for tricycle operators to drive to stay alive. He said whether the roads were good or bad, Keke drivers were always in a haste resulting in accidents and traffic gridlocks.
Onitsha-North transition committee chairman Hon. Patrick Aghadinuno Mba extolled the ministry of transport, saying that the sensitisation cum re-orientation programme was a welcome development as it would help change the pyschology of tricycle operators.
Mba said Onitsha was noted for high traffic densities and that Keke drivers formed greater percentage of the traffic population. He said the training will introduce sanity in their operations and that tricycle operators have also moved against touting in the area.
Representatives of the Federal Road Safety Corps, Mr. Abel Onyejelem and Mr. Kamal Musa, who delivered speeches on Defensive Driving and Legal Implications of Driving Keke Without License respectively, stressed the dire need for Keke drivers to always have mental alertness while plying the roads.
They also emphasized the need for them to always have maximum concentration devoid of phone conversation and other forms of distractions while on the roads. Keke drivers were equally told the importance of acquiring their licenses to avoid the legal consequences of such violations.
Also Engr. Offozor Aburi of the Vehicle Inspection Officers’ Unit stressed that Anambra State laws stipulated that every Keke rider must undergo biometric data capturing.
Aburi emphasized that every commercial tricycle must carry only 3 passengers at a time and that anyone less than 18 years of age or above 70 years of age must not drive Keke.
Some Keke operators who bared their minds as to the realities on the roads, said only government could save them from the tyranny of revenue agents who compelled them to pay for certain unidentified tickets.
Mr. Solomon Nwele who operates his Keke business from Nkpor junction to Main Market Onitsha, said the training programme was a bold step taken in the right direction to address pertinent issues but stated that their major problem was the N500.00 daily tickets from government revenue officials.
Another commercial tricyclist who spoke in anonimity said he does his Keke business between Seaman Petrol Station Boromeo Junction and Main Market Onitsha but the multiple taxes imposed on them were unbearable.
He said, “If you carry someone to Oshanja market, you will pay N500.00 and if you refuse, they will beat you up. But from Seaman to Main Market we pay only N450.00.
“The only problem we have is one woman called Hajia. She collects N100.00 from us each everyday. She told us the money is for packing and loading at Seaman Petrol Station. So everything we pay is N550.00 for daily tickets.”
The Keke operator who accused government of having planted the said Hajia who hails from Onisha at Omoba gate service lane near Seaman Petrol Station Boromeo Junction to collect the said money, also informed that seats were being removed from tricycles at Ose market Onitsha and the driver beaten to stupor, if he refused to pay for all manner of tickets.