Welcome to Abuja, Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory, where tricycle riders have become ‘kings’, defied every known traffic rule and now fiercely and audaciously compete for space and opportunities with motorists in the city centres and the suburbs of the capital city of Nigeria.
Keke NAPEP, as residents refer to them, crisscross the city as their footstool. They fear no one either in uniform or in mufti. As far as they are concerned, the search for customers either on the highway or on the streets with a view to lining their pockets and smiling to the bank remains the single most important interest to them irrespective of who is alive or dead in the process.
In their bid to search for customers, they have breached all known traffic regulations and have constituted themselves as recalcitrant and malevolent elements who are above the law of the land. On the highway, they drive against traffic and do not care to wait for any other road user even though they may have the right of way.
The menace of tricyclists in Abuja has become a part and parcel of the city’s life and does not seem to be in a hurry to disappear despite the many deadlines served on them by the FCTA to quit the city and move over to the rural areas where cars and buses do not operate.
And, in a bid to further control the atrocities of the riders, the current FCT Minister, Mohammed Bello on Tuesday 12th November 2019 restrained the riders from any part of the city’s urban areas and raised a special task force headed by Atta Ikharo, to enforce the ban.
A young woman, Moji, a health professional residing in Gwarinpa, would not forget in a hurry what a commercial tricyclist did to her Honda car on a Sunday afternoon last week while she was ascending the Overhead Bridge linking Mabglobal Estate along Kubwa-AYA Highway. Moji was climbing the bridge, which is reserved for only those going into the estate when she suddenly came face to face with a speeding commercial tricycle descending the one-way lane.
She almost collapsed when confronted with an unbelievable sight of the tricycle on her right of way but before then the machine had crashed into her Honda car almost cutting the car into pieces.
But even with her being the victim, colleagues of the offending tricyclists had already gathered in large numbers with dangerous objects and attempted to beat the victim up and burn her car before those who saw that she was hit on her right of way intervened and rescued the lady from the virulent cyclists.
Nonetheless, she was ordered by the mob to pay for the treatment of the cyclist and his passenger who sustained serious injuries and the fixing of the tricycle as conditions for allowing her to go ‘in peace’.
In all cases, the cyclists seem to be more interested in executing jungle justice on motorists without waiting for law enforcement officers apparently because of the knowledge that they are operating illegally on the roads.
“We are fighting to earn our living,” said Tunde Abidun, a commercial tricyclist, who operates in Dawaki, near Gwarinpa and Kubwa. “We must support our members because we know that injury to one of us is an injury to all of us,” the cyclist said.
But above all, the collapse of many of the buses in the fleet of the Abuja Urban Mass Transit Authority, which used to provide comfort many, but now adorn the premises of the company as mere decorative items, appears to be the immediate cause of the takeover of the streets of Abuja by commercial tricycles and motorcycles, causing a headache for all.
The Abuja Master Plan has several provisions for the development and maintenance of the nation’s Federal Capital Territory FCT. However, it did not make provisions for the operations of Okada and Rickshaw (Keke) in the capital city.
Specifically, Section 42(1) of the FCT Road Traffic Act is unambiguous in stating that permits should not be granted for them to operate.
Under the law, tricycles are barred from operating in the metropolis including Garki, Wuse, Asokoro, Maitama, Jabi, Gwarinpa, Utako, Durumi, Lokogoma and Apo.
The law has not been amended but the riders are unrelenting in breaching it.
But the Attah Ikharo-led task force, which is leading the fight against traffic challenges in the FCT and its environs, has vowed to put an end to the lawlessness by commercial tricyclists, motorists and other road users in the FCT. But it is left to be seen how far his committee will succeed in curtailing the excesses of the ‘new kings’ of Abuja