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Restricting Keke-NAPEP in Abuja

There was confusion in Abuja city on Tuesday last week following the Federal Capital Territory Administration’s[FCTA]sudden move to enforce the ban on commercial tricycles also known as Keke-NAPEP. Many commuters were forced to trek over long distances to get to their workplaces or wait for many hours to catch a taxi. Most Keke-NAPEP operators got to know of the ban when they came out to start their daily work, only to be chased around by policemen. Many had their Kekes impounded.

The FCT Ministerial Task Team on Free Flow of Traffic joined forces with the Directorate of Road Traffic Services [DRTS] to enforce the ban on tricycles operating along Abuja’s major highways. Chairman of the Task Team Comrade Ikharo Attah, who led his team to join the DRTS’ sensitization campaign, said full enforcement would not only restore sanity to the federal capital but would help in the fight against traffic gridlock.

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The Ministerial Task Team, drawn from various law enforcement agencies and civil society organisations, was inaugurated over two months ago by FCT Minister Muhammad Musa Bello. He charged it to among other things, rid the roads of hawkers and allow free flow of traffic. Chairman Attah said the order was not designed to unleash hardship on tricycle operators and residents. He said the ban was in line with the FCT’s transportation master plan, which stipulates that all means of transportation must be regulated and controlled. The ministerial order was meant to enhance the safety of the operators as well as that of the passengers because Keke-NAPEPs will no longer be allowed to move on highways, he said.

Attah also said the Abuja project would not succeed if laws and regulations that govern operations of businesses are not enforced.“What the Minister is asking them to do is just to restrict themselves to areas designated for them to operate. They cannot be everywhere across the city, particularly on major highways and in the city centre. The deployment of high capacity buses from the fleets of Abuja Urban Mass Transport will cushion the effects of the ban,” he said.

We support FCTA authorities’ move to enforce the law that restricts movement of tricycles to certain areas. From the outset, the tricycles were banned from all FCT highways and major roads within the city centre. This was for many safety reasons including the fragile nature of the Keke-NAPEP, which could be blown off the road by the strong wind of over speeding and heavy-duty vehicles. Thus, their operations were restricted to link-roads within and around housing estates and office complexes.

Confusion and anxiety arose because enforcement of this restriction law on tricycles, which had been there all along, was not enforced over a long period of time. Consequently, tricycle operators gradually began to extend their activities to highways and major roads within Abuja city. Relevant agencies especially the VIOs and FRSC officials turned a blind eye to this violation of the tricycle restriction order. This long period of non-implementation of the restriction law explains why its recent re-enforcement sounded to some residents as if it was new or a complete ban on tricycle operations.

For the benefit of tricycle operators and commuters, including new residents of Abuja city who never knew of the ban, FCTA authorities should have announced that the enforcement of the old restriction order was going to be renewed from a particular date. This could have forestalled the situation where many commuters were stranded and the tricyclists too were taken unawares. Even when the tricycles operate off the highways, their operators’ attitude to traffic laws must be improved upon. This could be done by FRSC through open air lectures and interactions at Keke-NAPEP parks. To further ease and augment transportation system within Abuja city, we urge FCTA to revive the Abuja Leasing Company which, under former FCT Minister Nasir El-Rufai, had fleets of green cabs that plied the highways.

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