Raymond Ozoji, Awka
Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State has set aside N765m for commercial motorcyclists in the state to enable them to purchase shuttle buses following the government’s decision to restrict them from operating in Awka, the state capital, and Onitsha, the Southeast commercial hub, from July 1.
The funds will be accessed through the Anambra State Small Business Agency (ASBA).
Existing commercial motorcyclists, popularly known as Okada operators, will take delivery of the buses once they deposit N100,000 with ASBA, undertaking to make payments every two weeks .
The Anambra State Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, Mr C. Don Adinuba, who disclosed this in a press statement issued to journalists on Thursday in Awka, said that the interest-free loan could be repaid within a year and a half.
The shuttle buses will cost between N700,000 and N800,000 each.
The first set of 200 units of the 1000 buses in the scheme will arrive in the state anytime from now from Japan.
Mr Adinuba, in the statement, said that the Obiano administration decided to phase out Okada operations in Awka and Onitsha so as to economically empower the operators and quicken the process of turning the state into a modern place like Dubai.
“A situation where some members of the public have been made to believe that they cannot rise beyond the level of Okada riders is unfair and offends good conscience”, the commissioner noted.
“Governor Obiano wants commercial motorcyclists to get to the next level by becoming bus owners.
“Bus ownership will generate far more revenues for the present Okada riders because whereas a motorcyclist is not allowed to have more than one passenger at a time, a shuttle bus can carry as many as seven passengers”.
Adinuba said that another reason for the decision to phase out Okada operations in the stae’s two leading cities was the plan to make Anambra State the “Dubai of Africa within the next few decades, a status which no place can attain by making Okada dominate the entire landscape”.
He also stated that the high rate of serious road accidents involving Okada riders and their passengers was another reason for the restriction.
He declared: “Up to 70% of accident cases in orthopaedic and other hospitals in Anambra State and beyond involve commercial motorcycle crashes, and it is not right for any government which cares for the welfare and future of its citizens not to do anything about this phenomenon considering that the safety of every individual is the primary constitutional responsibility of the state”.
What is more, he continued, “many robberies and other violent crimes throughout Nigeria have been traced to people using commercial motorcycles. We do not want anything which can compromise our hard earned reputation as Nigeria’s safest state”.
The Information Commissioner noted that Anamba did not follow other Southeastern states to restrict Okada operations when they did because Obiano was developing a scheme to “provide the people of the state with superior services and make the Okada operators more productive agents of our economy.
“The delay is worth it because Governor Obiano did not want the Okada operators to be out of employment. What is more, we are today proud of our record as perhaps the only government in Nigeria’s history to provide Okada riders with buses”.
Meanwhile, the Anambra State empowerment programme for commercial motorcyclists has been generating reactions.
The chairman of the Okada Riders Association in the state, Jude Udegbe, described it “as another evidence of Obiano’s humane nature” while the chairman of the state branch of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Jerry Nnubia, called it a welcome development “which has the potential to dramatically improve the lives of Okada operators and reduce the crime rate in our state”.
The chairman of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) in the state, Comrade Ifeanyi Okechukwu, said it showed that “the governor’s second tenure will witness a radical improvement in all sectors”.