By Na-Allah Mohammed Zagga
According The Punch newspaper, “the jobs of 40,000 operators of tricycles (popularly known as keke) in Abuja would be under serious threat as the Federal Capital Territory Administration begins mass arrest of those who fail to comply with the restriction order and ban from the city.”
It was difficult for many to get to their destinations this morning. Many commuters had to trek long distance to get to their places of work. I noticed in many places that commuters in Abuja had difficulty time this morning following the decision of commercial tricycle operators(popularly known as Keke NAPEP) to boycott the roads in protest against the FCT intention to bring ordiliness in their activities in the Federal Capital City by restricting their movements to particular parts of the Abuja. It’s the duty of governments anywhere in the world to regulate how people conduct their activities. So, why should anybody complain about orderliness in the interest of public safety and convenience?
Unfortunately, the Keke NAPEP operators are so used to lawlessness and recklessness that they have become a law unto themselves. They are not amenable to reason. They are driven by mob instinct or emotions that defy reason. I overheard one them boasting that how can they they vote politicians into office and the government would turn around to take the bread out of their mouths?
But taking the bread out of the people’s mouths couldn’t have been the reason for the FCT decision to introduce sanity into their operations. It’s a notorious fact that Keke NAPEP operators have no regard for traffic regulations. They don’t obey traffic regulations. They driver anyhow and frequently cause accidents. Even when they hit your car out their impatience in the traffic, they scream invectives at you instead of saying sorry. They claim right even when they are wrong. They gather around to start trouble even when their member is at fault.
Lest I am misunderstood, there is no suggestion that any social group should be denied the right to earn a living. But obeying the law protects the safety of both us(the passengers)and the KEKE NAPEP operators. Former FCT Minister Nasir El-Rufai banned Okada motorcycle operators from Abuja because of the same lawlessness. They were setting people’s vehicles on fire whenever they were having issues with motorists. El-Rufai’s cup of patience was full, and he finally forced to apply the big stick by banning altogether from Abuja. Some them returned to the their states and others converted to taxi and bus drivers.
It’s not easy to ask struggling Nigerians to return to their local governments where there are no job opportunities. When the local governments are dysfunctional, the masses have to rush to urban areas where the business thrives better. You can’t, former example, expect mechanics and masons to remain in their local government areas where there are fewer vehicles or fewer construction activities to give them job opportunities.
Therefore, given the level of pervasive poverty in the local government areas and their weak economic base, it’s natural to expect Abuja to become the centre of attraction for poor Nigerians, including the Keke NAPEP operators. Since the government lacks the capacity to employ every citizen, those Nigerians struggling to earn a living legitimately deserve every support to succeed in this endeavour.
Keke NAPEP operators have become like a necessary nuisance. Many passengers suffered inconveniences today because of their decision to boycott the roads. I’m against banning them altogether because people are making a living from it. So, it may be morally wrong to take the bread out of people’s mouths in a situation where the government cannot provide jobs. I am, however, in full support of regulating the operations of Keke Nape riders for the sake of their own safety, their passengers and members of the general public. It’s wrong to stop the FCT from performing its function of bringing orderliness and sanity in the activities of Keke NAPEP operators.