Editorial: Yes, Okada should never be legalised!
The Transport Minister-designate, Kwaku Ofori Asiamah, has, according to a Ghanaian Times report, firmed up that government would not legalise the use of motorcycles for commercial purposes.
His argument is that existing traffic regulations and enforcements do not support the commercialisation of motorcycles business, popularly known as ‘okada’.
“We have an issue of enforcement in this country, and based on what is pertaining on the ground today, it will be difficult for me to lead the legalisation of okada,” he told the Appointments Committee of Parliament during his vetting.
The Minister-designate also gave some statistics to support the position that has been taken by the government. “Mr Chairman, in 2010 the people who died out of motorcycles accidents was 210. With the 2020 figures, out of 2,500 who died from road accidents, 1,050 are as a result of motorcycles,” the paper quoted him as saying.
Denying that the government hinted of a stakeholder engagement to legalise the trade in the run up to the 2020 election, Mr Asiamah said it may later engage if traffic regulations and its enforcements improved. “Thankfully, the police are trying to modernise their system of traffic control. If the conditions, in terms of traffic management; in terms of enforcing regulations becomes conducive, why not? We will assess it. But with the condition pertaining today, it will not be possible for us to legalise okada,” he stated.
When in the run up to the 20202 elections, former President John Dramani Mahama promised to legalise ‘okada’, we used this column to disagree with the proposal. Our argument at the time was that though the proposal would sink well with the ‘okada’ riders and rake in the votes, the country was going to suffer for it in the long run.
We also, at the time, drew former President Mahama’s attention to the fact that Nigeria, which started this motorcycle business, has banned the trade because of the nuisance it was causing on their streets. In fact, as we speak today, it is illegal to ride okada to the central business district of Lagos. Now if the one who introduced that trade has seen the need to ban it, why should we plunge our heads into the mess?
Even though ‘okada’ is still illegal in Ghana, we are all witnesses to the fact that the youth are using it as business and riding recklessly on our streets. They have no regard to traffic regulations, especially at road intersections controlled by traffic lights. They cross the red lights with careless abandon, thereby endangering the lives of other road users.
Though former president John Mahama promised to put control measures in place to ensure that okada riders obey the traffic rules, such control measures, in our view, would have lasted a few months or years and the country would slide into the mess as is being experienced by Nigeria.
Apart from the disregard for traffic rules, okada is gradually becoming a tool for armed robbery in the country, and other heinous crimes in the country. About a year ago, this paper carried a story where an ‘okada’ rider robbed his pillion rider of money at knife-point near the Ridge Roundabout in Accra. There are others who are also using the motorbikes to snatch handbags, especially from our ladies, and ride away without any trace.
In summation, the legalisation of okada would be a serious threat to the survival of this country in future, at least judging from the little that we have seen so far. The Chronicle, therefore, supports the stance of the government that it would not legalise the trade. As the adage goes in our local parlance, if you see your friend’s beard catches fire, you had better fetch water and place it beside yours, because the next beard to catch fire could be yours.
We must learn a youthful lesson from Nigeria, which has seen it all and decided now to ban okada. We must not plunge this nice country into chaos because pressure has been brought to bear on politicians to legalise okada.
Youth unemployment is a serious security challenge confronting this country, but this must not delude us into thinking that ‘okada’ is the panacea to the problem. Our leaders must think outside the box on how to create jobs for the youth, but Okada should certainly not be one of the methods of the job creation agenda.