Unwholesome activities of tricycle riders on Abuja roads are raising eyebrows among residents and they have called on authorities to curb the recklessness of the riders and the ever increasing numbers of the tricycles, popularly called Keke.
There are motorcades of tricycles on almost all the roads in the FCT. The ban on motorcycles in the capital city forced most of the commercial cyclists to transit to the Keke business. Besides, the insurgency and banditry in parts of the country has displaced many young men from their hometowns and they have found refuge in Abuja, where the tricycle business offers a source of livelihood.
Henry Baaki, a resident who was commuting from Lokogoma to Area I, Garki, penultimate week, was injured on his head and arm after the Keke he boarded was knocked off the road by a speeding motorist.
He said the tricycle stopped on the road by the service lane to drop off a passenger when the incident happened.
He said he, like many other residents, dislikes boarding Keke but since there is no alternative transportation to other parts of the city and commuting in car taxis was expensive, he reluctantly uses the Keke.
“But since that crash I had while riding in a keke, I have become wary of them. If I have an option I would never board it again because the Keke does not have weight and the riders are reckless while on the road,” he said.
Taxi drivers and other motorists have expressed concern that Keke operators are not just reckless while riding on the roads, but that they have defied the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA)’s ban on use of Keke in the city centre and other highbrow areas.
The Sector Commander of the Federal Road safety Corps (FRSC) in the FCT, Ayuba Gora Wobin, confirmed that tricycles are supposed to ply arterial roads, where they will drop off their passengers at the major roads and passengers return to the arterial roads or wait at the junctions linking the secondary roads to the main roads.
Our reporter observed that the tricycles now ply almost every route in the FCT, including expressways like City Gate-Airport Road and AYA-Nyanya-Keffi road.
Some taxi drivers who spoke with our reporter accused the Keke riders of unruly behaviour which always make the use of the roads unsafe. They allege that the Keke riders cause road crashes, traffic jams and beat traffic light at junctions, charges the sector commander, however, said applied to all categories of road users in the FCT.
Mr. Stanley Mba said the tricycle operators were worse than the bikes that the FCTA has banned from plying in the city. “They believe in rough riding, because they see their Keke like car, but you can’t compare three tyres with four tyres. Though it’s a means of livelihood for many people, the government should regulate their activities so that the alarming rates of road traffic crashes can be reduced,” he said.
Daily Trust on Sunday gathered from residents that the operators also engage in ‘One Chance’ operations, a robbery style prevalent in Abuja. There have been allegations of such incidents along Jabi-Airport Junction-Karimo road.
A resident, Musa Adamu, said he is usually vigilant and prayerful when boarding Keke, especially at night.
“I don’t board Keke that already has some passengers in it, unless if it is in their park; because that is the trick they are using now. Though it is not safe, I don’t have option but to use it. I just have to pray to God to protect me from them,” he added.
Mallam Ilyasu Aliyu, an elderly taxi driver said “apart of committing crimes, they cause a lot of inconvenience on the road, as drivers we are always careful when we see Keke coming so that they won’t scratch our vehicles. At times they struggle to overtake cars as if they are riding trucks.
“Most of the tricycle riders overtake on the right hand side, which is not safe for us other road users because that is the side where our passengers alight from,” he added.
Mr. Aliyu suggested that Keke should be restricted to arterial roads inside and in large estates where there are no alternative means of transportation.
Pius Nwonur, on his part decried that Keke has taken over taxi business and on most routes passengers prefer to board it than take a cab.
Our reporter also observed that despite the ban on motorcycles in the city, a good number of them have returned to areas like Asokoro, Area I and other parts of Garki.
The Director of the FCTA Directorate of Road Traffic Services (DRTS), Wadata Bodinga, while commenting on what they have been doing to control the activities of both keke and okada, said the directorate has been doing its best to enforce the ban on motorcycles and the restriction on tricycles.
“But it’s a big challenge because we have always been on their trail morning, afternoon and night but you can still see these people continue to ply the areas they know are restricted to them. It is not as if they are not aware of that, they are all aware and know the areas they cannot go in,” he said.
He said the directorate in partnership with the media has done dissemination of information to the concerned group and since it has not yielded positive results, the sensitization would be taken to the next level of sensitizing commuters
“If the commuters decide to boycott the patronage of the tricycles, I can tell you they will simply vanish,” he said.
He also said there has been intensified crack down on motorcycles in the city, saying, “every day on the average, we arrest 30-40 motorcycles on a daily basis. I cannot even imagine where they are coming from because every day we are on their trail. We have impounded thousands and we are not releasing them but they still continue to operate. When we impound them after six months we approach the court for forfeiture.”
Our reporter who visited Auto Pound, near Kunyami, a village behind Gosa, Airport Road, Abuja, where the bikes and vehicles are dumped, discovered auto and bikes scraps beside a rundown recycling plant.
Daily Trust on Sunday learnt that the plant used to make rims from the scrap once the DRTS obtains a forfeiture order but it has stopped operations for some time now and the pile of seized bikes keeps mounting at the site.
On his part, the FRSC sector commander said quite a number of motorists are behaving like Keke operators too.
He however, explained that most of the Keke riders transited from motorcycle riders to Keke riders and there was a tendency that they would behave the same way.
“But we are making our efforts to talk to them. We go to their parks and talk to them on why they should ride the Keke and follow traffic rules.
“It’s a means of transport, people board it to their destinations, so we are not saying Keke cannot be used, it can be used in the restricted environment it is supposed to be used,” he said.
He said the FRSC officials arrest any Keke caught plying a restricted route. “In fact a taskforce was put in place and most of them know that when they are arrested it would be hard to get their Keke back,” he added.
Wobin said that when he assumed the FCT command in 2017, his major concern was to educate the Keke operators especially those in Jabi and Gwarimpa axis, adding that his hard work has begun to bear fruits.
“These areas I have done a lot and once they get to traffic light they will stop. What am battling with them is that, if they wait for the traffic light, especially the traffic light that gives signal in seconds, when it is remaining two seconds to give them greenlight to move, that is when they move to cross their borders which is very dangerous, because the person that has right of way looks at it that he doesn’t have much time so the person will automatically increase his speed to scale through and it will result in accident,” he said.
He, however, said he has met with the leadership of the umbrella union of the Keke operators to ask them to educate their members on how to obey traffic rules.
Efforts to speak with the FCT chairman of Tricycle Owners Association of Nigeria (TOAN), Suleiman Tata, were not successful as he did not pick several calls made to his two mobile phone numbers.
The chairman of motorcycle riders association in the FCT, Malam Biko Alhassan, said the leadership of the association has been having meetings with its members and government regulatory agencies and was hoping that there would be change of attitude from the members and the authorities too would enforce the ban with a human face.