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Monday, 19 November 2012 00:00
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Commercial motorcycles in airports, let’s try Kano option

Stella Adaeze OduahThe use of commercial motorcycles as a means of transportation in Nigeria is no longer news. While it is known as Okada in Lagos and the Southern part of the country, it is known as Ashaba in the Northern part of the country but they all perform the same form of roles- mean of transportation.

The use of motorcycles became a prominent in late 90s when the economy took a great plunge during the military rules when different forms of sanctions were imposed on the country because of the failure of the juntas in power to embrace democracy.

The business received greater boost when politicians instead of fixing the economy decided in their wisdom to empower their cronies economically and brought more motorcycles into the country and shares among their followers.

Then the business of commercial motorcycling thrived beyond expectation and more than expected the riders experienced upturn in their economies.

Thereafter they began to compete with taxi and cab operators in most cities. Where taxis and cab operators would not venture to go a commercial motorcycle operator would take passengers there at cheaper prices and shorter time.

Informed by the incessant traffic jam experienced by flying public on most of our major airport roads across the country ; which had caused many passengers to miss their flights, Okada became the best alternative for passengers on a raining day  or when there is traffic jam on the airport roads.

Disturbed by their incessant involvement in road accidents and the claim that their operations raised issue of security and safety in the airport the management of Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) ban the operations of commercial motorcyclists in some airports across the country.

The airport authority imposed a fine of N20,000 or three months imprisonment or both any one arrested and convicted of operating  commercial motorcycles in the especially the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos,

Many operators were arrested, prosecuted and convicted for operating commercial motorcycles illegally in the airport. All motorcycle arrested by FAAN officials in conjunction with some personnel of security agencies attached to the airport were never returned to the owners.

Yet the illegal operators never desist from their illegal activities. Investigations by Nigerian Compass revealed that the illegal operators consist of   officials of aviation agencies, the security agents, their relations and those  who could bribe their ways through the security personnel designated to enforce the prohibition of the  illegal operations.

Even now when Lagos State government has prohibited activities of commercial motorcycles on some roads in the state, many thought there would be a reduction in the number  of the illegal operators in the airport roads but it is surprising that  their number is on the increase everyday while they intensify their  activities as well as increase their charges.

A ride between the First Bank or  Airport Bus Stop located along Agege Motor Road  to the General Aviation Terminal  which used to cost between N50 and N100 depending on the time of the day now goes for between N200 and N250.

When Nigerian Compass probed into the rationale behind the increase fare, the cyclists told our correspondents that the security agents have increased the bribe.

They said before Lagos state government placed a ban on the activities of Okada riders in some roads in the state, the security agents would charge them N200 per cyclists per day. “But since the beginning of the implementation of the Lagos State prohibition order on Okada riders in the state, the security have increased their take to N500per motorcycle per day. Anyone who is not cooperating would be set up for their colleagues in Lagos State to arrest”

“You know, the cyclist continued, ‘this airport is not under Lagos State Police Command, so they cannot come here to arrest us. What we do is that we agree to play along and pass the burden to the passengers who are always willing to patronise us

We have pleaded with management of FAAN to register us like it is done in the military barracks (Ikeja and Oshodi Cantonments), where our colleagues are registered and given the strict rules to follow.”

But a visit to Mallam Aminu Kano Airport, Kano by Nigerian Compass last weekend showed that Ashaba operators were allowed to operate legally into the airport. They have their park very close to a car park along exit road in  the airport.

They wear aprons for easy identification and they known themselves by names and vehicle numbers. they pick passengers in turn  without molestation.

All efforts to get the regional and terminal managers of the Kano airport comment on the activities of the commercial motorcyclists proved abortive as they were said to be in a meeting with some officials from the Lagos headquarters of FAAN

Some passengers who spoke with Nigerian compass on the activities of the commercial  motorcyclists  in the Kano airport spoke well of them. They claim that their activities are indispensable at least for a low income earner to get transport to and from the airport.
“In this airport commercial motorcycle operators are allowed to operate legally.

They are a source of help to the poor who use the airport. If not for them how many people here do you think would come work regularly with airport cab charging about N2,000 for a trip on short distance outside the airport. They are well organised and have an association, which registers every commercial motorcyclists that operates in the airport. ” A passenger said.

The question now is why is management of FAAN is not doing the same to Okada operators  in Lagos but allow security agents to feed fat on them?

If they are registered and allowed to operate legally in the Lagos airport, apart from the fact that they would be a source of revenue to FAAN,  they would  also serve as sources of security information to the security agencies in the airport; since they would be recognised and identifiable and when there is any breach of the law by any of them such a violator could be easily identified and sanctioned accordingly.

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