The Menace of ‘Okada’ Riders

A motorcycle is a two - or three-wheeled motor vehicle. Motorcycle design varies greatly to suit a range of different purposes: long distance travel, commuting, cruising, sport including racing, and off-road riding. – Wikipedia.

The use of motorcycle for commercial activities especially commuting passengers known as ‘okada’ has come to stay even though it’s in clear violation of the laws of Ghana. When it first surfaced, it received some amount of objection especially from the Ghana Police Service which tried to even enforce a section of our laws that prohibits the use of the motorbike for commercial purposes. The police argued that if motorbikes should be allowed to operate commercial activities, then that piece of the legislation must be amended to that effect.

This issue ended up in Parliament and parliamentarians were even divided over whether or not ‘okada’ should be allowed to operate commercially. While a section was for, another section was against. That notwithstanding, parliamentarians for Ashaiman and Kpone-Katamanso constituencies took it upon themselves to defend and allow the use of the motorbikes for commercial purposes in their constituencies. Even though the police chief at the time made it quite clear that they would arrest riders who use their bikes to commute passengers, he could not achieve that objective because some of those who made the law had decided to turn their back on it in exchange for votes. Those MPs were alleged to have actually bought the bikes for them to do the business they are doing. So they have every right to protect their interest. Meanwhile, Ashaiman’s next door metropolis, Tema has refused to allow ‘okadas’ to be used for commercial purposes. Clearly, one gets the sense that politicians fight for their personal interests as opposed to public interest. Shouldn’t public interest override selfish ones? Yet we see politicians perpetrating these crimes against us and we have continued to allow them have their way.

‘Okada’ riders are creating a lot of nuisance especially in the Ashaiman municipality. Their activities create a lot of dangers for other road users especially the pedestrians. They ride recklessly without paying attention to any road traffic regulation. They cannot stop for a second for pedestrians to even cross the road. They have become king of the road. They don’t even wait for vehicles to turn on the road. Even if vehicles have stopped to allow pedestrians to cross the road, ‘okadas’ appear from nowhere to knock them down. They ride on any part of the road including the shoulders of the road or pavements and from any direction. They are always moving even if every part of the road is choked and vehicles cannot move. No matter how careful you are on the road, you must marshal all your senses while on the road otherwise you might be knocked down by a reckless ‘okada’ rider. A lot of the ‘okada’ riders, their patrons and unsuspecting pedestrians have lost their lives. Others have become disabled.

The police has been arresting these okada riders for one reason or the other. Some were arrested for not using crush helmets. The riders don’t use the helmets neither do their passengers. The police in the Ashaiman municipality said they are tired of arresting them. Some major healthcare providers have allegedly been punishing okada riders who report at their facility by not giving them emergency care even if their condition requires so. In otherwise, the nurses have developed a lukewarm attitude towards ‘okada’ riders who are involved in accident of any degree. They thought that would stop them from their reckless activity. But that has not been so helpful. I was told they are rushed to the Catholic Hospital in Koforidua.

These ‘okada’ riders also engage in criminal activities with their bikes. They convey their patrons on top speed to isolated places and rob them of money and other valuables in broad day light or at night.
But the problem is being compounded. I think a couple of years ago, tricycles were introduced in the north. We have a few also operating here in the capital city. They are being used to carry human beings. My question is: does the law allow tricycle to commute passengers? We live in a country where our leaders try to rationalize even wrongdoing. We also tend to equate everything.

A lot of the ‘okadas’ on our streets have not been properly licensed to operate. They also do not have any insurance cover for themselves and their patrons. Taxis drivers are complaining their activities is affecting their work because they don’t pay road worthy neither do they pay insurance premiums of any kind.  All that is necessary is to buy the motorbike, get some number plate fixed on it and you are free to ride from Accra to Bolga if you like.

However, I reckon okadas may be allowed to operate in some parts of the country but under strict regulation. For instance, in the remote villages where there are no motorable roads, okadas become the best alternative means of transportation. They are very helpful especially for commuting pregnant women and other emergency medical situations.

In spite of this opinion, I am mindful of the fact that what is wrong is wrong. And the fact that everyone does the wrong thing can never make it right. If we are going to allow ‘okada’ to operate commercially, then they must pay insurance premiums, pay road worthy and any other taxes vehicles are paying. Their business must be regulated. Otherwise, I think we must banned them as early as possible for they are causing more harm than good especially in our cities.


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