Commercial motorbike operators are unanimous in their call for the legalization of their activities.
According to them, the business has created income opportunities for thousands of households.
At Madina Zongo junction, one of the busiest areas for motorbike operators, 32-year-old Abdul Razak Aziz alias ‘Big Apple’ and his friends have created a bike station. The station is more evident and busier during rush hours. Big Apple has been doing this for more than four years.
He told 3news.com’s Komla Adom, ‘this is all we have and it is the only means of earning a living.’
Big Apple makes on average two hundred cedis (GHȻ200) daily – so do his other counterparts. They are able to feed themselves and their families.
“We wake up every day, knowing we have a job that can keep us away from crime. We can buy clothes, food and cater for our dependants,” Big Apple said.
Though their operations are illegal, they have managed to mainstream it due to high demand for patrons on the go.
Ghana’s Road Traffic Regulations passed in 2012, L.I 2180 prohibits the commercial use of motorbikes and motor cycles.
Regulation 128 (1) states that the “Licensing Authority shall not register a motorcycle to carry a fare-paying passenger
It also states that a “person shall not permit a motorcycle or tricycle which that person exercises control to be used for commercial purpose, except for courier and delivery services
Section 128 (3) further stipulates that “a person shall not ride on a motorcycle or tricycle as a paying passenger.”
But many patrons prefer this means of transport, despite the risks.
Ishmael uses patronizes okada often. He says it is a faster means of transport.
“When you are running late for work, it is the surest way to beat city traffic. So I use it,” he said.
Big Apple believes legalizing their operations would bring them relief. Twenty-eight year-old Ibrahim Don TF agrees and welcomes NDC flag bearer John Mahama’s promise.
“We have heard John Mahama make the promise, we are happy about it. We hope he fulfills it when he gets elected,” he noted.
“Because this business benefits everybody. The politicians, lawyers, doctors, nurses, businessmen, I mean everyone.”
But while they await this policy change, they have to deal with law enforcers.
Big Apple told 3news.com, “we are unable to stop at the traffic lights when they turn red because of the police. They approach you from behind once you stop and take out your key.”
He added, “they will harass you and ask for your documents. They would still take money from you even if you have all the documents.”
Data compiled by the Motor Traffic and Transport Department (MTTD) in 2019 revealed 4,643 motor or cycle crashes.
The crashes saw 723 deaths and 3,474 injuries.
In January this year alone, 428 accidents involving motorbikes were recorded with 79 deaths according to data from the MTTD.
These commercial motor riders agree the figures are alarming. But they have no option.
Akwasi, another operator at the Madina Zongo junction okada ‘terminal’ said, “the riders who do food delivery and courier services are those almost always in a haste, so they get involved in accidents.”
But “some of my colleagues also out of desperation rush and get involved in crashes too. That is why we have been cautioning each other here to be careful.”
Calls for review of law
Some members of parliament have called for a review of the road traffic regulations to accommodate these operators arguing it has become a source of livelihood for thousands of young people.
Minority Chief Whip, Mohammed Muntaka Mohammed, has argued that mainstreaming the operations of commercial motor cycle and tricycles would create jobs for hundreds of thousands of young people across the country.
He said many rural folks also use okada and tricycles as their means of transport, therefore there must be steps to review the law banning their operations.
But government disagrees. Deputy Transport Minister Titus Glover believes legalizing these operations is not the way to go.
“Our extensive stakeholder engagements on this matter show the huge negative implications of legalizing their operations. The accidents, loss of lives, injuries and the like. There is also the issue of high crime rate with people using these bikes,” he told 3news.com at the launch of the New Patriotic Party’s 2020 Manifesto launch.
He described NDC flag bearer John Mahama’s promise to legalize okada business, as ‘ludicurous’ and one aimed at scoring political points.
Road safety and transport consultant Dr. Godfred Akye-Darkwah says such a move would be disastrous.
“Research on the ground does not support any such call for legalization. We have been in this space for more than three decades and we can say that going that route only means we want our people to die.”
He added, “we should not ride on the wings of political promises to endanger the lives of the Ghanaian. We should not legalize this business.”
By Komla Adom|3news.com|Ghana