The case for a modern transportation culture
Sir: A few years ago, I sent a memo to the Federal Minister of Transport suggesting ways of improving public transportation in Nigeria. The memo, which among other things suggested a possible ban on the use of motorcycles for public transportation, was published by The Guardian. Being the great and competent government officials that they are in Nigeria, receipt of my memo was not acknowledged!
However, the then well-admired minister of the Federal Capital Territory waited for an ugly incident to occur in Lagos before proposing his ban on the use of motorcycles for transportation in the city of Abuja. He nevertheless deserved praise for not doing things in the manner of the military. It was quite commendable that the users of motorcycles were given sufficient notice to find alternative means of livelihood before the ban on their activities commenced. Hopefully, the various governments – local, state and federal – will address the twin issues of poverty and unemployment, without which a ban on the use of motorcycles for public transportation could be deemed unjust. The then minister of the federal capital hinted that about 500 buses would be put on the roads of Abuja to ease public transportation.
Public transport should be a venture between governments and individuals. Those already in the business of public transport should be encouraged to constitute themselves into co-operative companies, with erstwhile “owners” becoming shareholders in joint ventures. New investors will boost the ranks of an enterprise that promises to boom. One would like to urge our governments to embark on coherent, long-term transport policies that conform with practices in the civilised world. Our politicians had tended to seek what could be described as easy options as well as cheap popularity, wanting also to be acknowledged as kind and generous donors of motor vehicles to favoured and selected supporters.
That is the way forward to achieving an efficient and organised transport system in a modern society that the Federal Republic of Nigeria promises to be. The advantages cannot be overstated. It provides job opportunities for company lawyers, accountants, insurance companies and office attendants. With the prospects of drivers working on a shift basis rather than living their lives on the roads, the percentage of accidents on our roads would reduce drastically. Of course, it will also be a lot easier for governments to impose their regulations as well as collect taxes from the transport companies. Taxes so collected will augment governmental efforts and responsibilities to constantly maintain existing roads as well as develop new ones.
Let it be emphasised that the motorbike is not designed for use as a commercial vehicle transporting a human cargo, and no insurance company will endorse it for that purpose. Nigerians must now know that those who cause death and injury to others, or damage property through their negligence, can be sued for compensation. Suing an okada rider is a waste of time. Okada business is a child of expediency, driven by poverty, unemployment, and the collapse of the transport system in Nigeria. It does not qualify to be accepted by any responsible society as a transport culture that has come to stay.
Akinola wrote from the United Kingdom.