Before Keke Goes Finally

Posted by on Nov 8th, 2017 and filed under AgwodInuju. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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An upheaval in the socio-economic life of Imo State commenced from Saturday, August 28th 2017 when government bulldozers went after the Eke Ukwu Owerri Market. Eke Ukwu Owerri market is the traditional and popular market located in the heart of Owerri, the state capital.

After repeated warning for traders to vacate the place located on Douglas Road, residents of the state woke up early in the morning to witness the demolition of the market place. The action heralded the sudden upset and convulsion in the landscape of the state in line with the urban Renewable program of the Owelle Rochas Okorocha administration in Imo State.

To complete the circle in the remodeling of the state capital, Okorocha who is steering the ship of the state, hurriedly gave tricycle operators two weeks to cease operations in major roads and streets. Before now, the state governor has not hidden his desire to send the Keke operators packing out from the state capital. Okorocha has used several organs of information to notify the operators of his desire to quit their operations in the state capital. Suffice it to note that Okorocha’s predecessor in office, Ikedi Ohakim introduced Keke after he banned motorcycle operators “Okada” from the state capital.

Initially, reports have it that the Keke operators had Dec 1, 2017 grace to quit until they were suddenly informed that the enforcement has commenced immediately.

Information has it that a protest by the new Taximo drivers, that they are not making enough returns to cater for their payments and expenses forced the state government to cage the Keke operators with immediate effect.

In the ensuing melee, the Keke operators were limited to certain areas which has sparked off a chaotic situation in the state transport system.

A keen observer of affairs of the state can testify that Keke has been a veritable means of transport in the state since domiciled in Owerri in 2008.

Ohakim banned Okada, and introduced Keke in Owerri. With the exit of Keke, a new brand of Taximo powered by the Imo Transport Company (ITC) came on board. There are strong indications that the number of Taximo is not enough to cater for needs of several road users in the state if observations on the road are anything to go by. Even as claims by the state government that it injected about 2,000 numbers of the passat wagon vehicles, the operational number cannot be above 300. Reports that the passat wagon cars are not enough can be deduced from the number of people stranded on the streets and at the bus stops waiting for cabs each day. Besides, indications that the Taximo does not have the capacity to cater for the passenger strength of the people in the state capital emerged as reports of the breakdown of the vehicles in all corners became rampant. At the delivery of the vehicles to the operators, most of the drivers either found themselves in mechanic workshops to finance unforeseen repairs. Others too got stranded with the vehicles on the roads arising from breakdown of their cabs. The breakdown signals were ominous signs that it cannot appropriately cater for the transport needs of the people in the state capital. Grapevine sources revealed that each of the operators took the vehicle on Hire purchase terms where they expected to be the owners of the cabs after complete payment of N1m.

In recent times, I have gone into shuttle services by assisting stranded commuter who experience a long wait at the bus stops without available taxis. While passing on the major roads, especially the ones leading to my area, I noticed a reasonable number of people waiting for vehicle. In service of humanity, I screech to a halt to assist the stranded passengers. I also learnt that many private cab owners have joined the practice and in exceptional cases exploit the opportunity to engage in partial commercial venture, otherwise known as “Kabu-Kabu”.

I urge the Imo State government to do a comprehensive review of Keke ban before its full enforcement. I wish to remind the Okorocha led administration that when Ohakim regime asked Okada operators to go, Keke was introduced alongside brand new taxi vehicles. The brand new Toyota and Skoda vehicles of Ohakim era are no match to the “Tokunbo” Volkswagen passat cars of the present government introduced. Interestingly, the Ohakim cabs which are still spotted on the roads till date received complimentary supports from other range of buses that plied routes in the municipality. During that era, Keke operated alongside the taxis and buses thereby creating a bitch free transport system. Suffice it to note that more bus services in the municipality should be introduced before full enforcement. Several people are going through hardship arising from non availability of other means of transport. It would be recalled that government once introduced shuttle buses some months ago. A move around the town shows that either the Rescue mission buses are not available or not enough to cater for the needs of the people.

The state government is advised to reconsider the Keke ban by limiting it to certain areas of the state capital than outright ban. More so, a proper training and enlightment campaign should be organized for the new Taximo drivers as most graduated from Keke to cab drivers without the prerequisite knowledge of moving a car on the road.

While I have no intention to challenge the governor over reasons behind the banning of Keke, he may wish to note that the tricycle operators were his major campaigners in 2011. Despite the fact that Ohakim introduced Keke, the operators were crusaders for the Rescue Mission. It was common then to spot Okorocha in Keke and the operators leading his convoy for campaign. For these reasons, the governor is enjoined to apply caution in asking the Keke to vacate six years after he gained political prominence led by the operators to migrate into Government House, Owerri.

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